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Clearwater woman charged with gator possession

Published:   |   Updated: June 4, 2013 at 04:58 PM

CLEARWATER - Five months after police stumbled on an exotic menagerie at a Countryside home, authorities on Monday arrested the matriarch, accusing her of illegally owning an alligator.

Julie Vu, 43, was charged with illegally killing, possessing or capturing an alligator - a felony. She was released from the Pinellas County Jail after posting $2,000 bail.

Clearwater police went to the Vu household at 2606 Brewton Court on Jan. 10 after receiving a complaint there were numerous chickens and roosters on the property, according to court records unsealed on Tuesday.

Julie's son, Kevin Vu, showed authorities all the animals on the property - 22 birds, one pig, one alligator and 21 turtles, the documents state. The alligator was found in a cage behind an empty chicken coop, in some brush, the documents state. The cage was not placed in any water, nor was it close to any water the alligator might have access to, the documents state.

The other creatures were housed in similarly restricting conditions. The roosters and chickens were in a cage that was too small for them, and they didn't have access to water, the documents state. Roosters are not supposed to be housed together, as they tend to fight, and neighbors might have presumed there was cockfighting on the property after hearing the birds fight each other in their cage.

The cage in which the pig had been placed was buzzing with flies and was in direct sunlight. The pig didn't have access to water, either, the documents state. The duck's cage housing was also too small for it to move in, and the bird was lying in feces when investigators found it, the documents state. The duck didn't have access to any water, either.

Authorities had previously stated the turtles were living in a swimming pool at the house. Kevin Vu told authorities that the animals belonged to his parents. When interviewed, Julie Vu said the family was keeping the animals for food, the documents state.

Clearwater police previously said prosecutors were expected to decide whether to charge both Kevin's father, Victor, and Julie with animal abuse and possession of an American alligator, both misdemeanors. But the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office charged Julie with the more serious felony. Her husband has not been charged.

The Vus also violated several city ordinances by keeping the wild animals and birds.