'Animal house' gets raided by Texas police

By Lauren D'Avolio
The Dallas Morning News

PLANO — Bobby Crawford Jr. just wants his monkey back.

The brawny man is inked with tattoos dedicated to the 8-year-old rhesus macaque monkey — two images flanking his back and the animal's name etched on his arm.

But Mr. Crawford was reduced to tears Friday at the thought of Wednesday's raid on his Plano home. Authorities seized Darwin, along with six piranhas, a rose-haired tarantula and an American alligator. Police haven't accounted for another alligator, Mr. Crawford says, and neither can he.

Mr. Crawford, 42, says he intends to sell his home and possibly give up a career as a technician with Volvo to move to a place more welcoming to Darwin.

"I live for nothing else," he said. "I just can't believe he's gone."

Rewind two weeks to Feb. 7, when an investigation into a hit-and-run fender bender led police to Mr. Crawford's door.

Mr. Crawford invited the officer into his home, where the monkey was in plain view.

The officer's line of questioning quickly turned to Mr. Crawford's shaggy companion.

"While speaking to Mr. Crawford about his pet monkey, he told me he's had the monkey since it was little and the monkey is now 8," the officer said in court records. "I asked Mr. Crawford if he had any other animals he could show me and he replied, 'No.'"

That's when the officer noticed the 50-gallon aquarium.

Mr. Crawford cursed and admitted the fish were piranhas, court records say.

Eventually, all the animals were confiscated.

Mr. Crawford was written two citations from animal control for the monkey and the alligator.

An offense report has been filed on the piranhas with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The animals were taken to the Outdoor Learning Center in Plano.

Possession of exotic, harmful or potentially harmful fish or aquatic plants is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail, said Plano police spokesman Rick McDonald. The penalty can increase based on the number of fish, he said. Other animals resulted in Class C misdemeanors.

Mr. Crawford was not arrested, Officer McDonald said, though the investigation is continuing.

Mr. Crawford said he didn't know any of the creatures were illegal when he got them. A breeder in Florida told him Darwin was legal, and Mr. Crawford said he didn't know that wasn't the case until years later.

"I just wish this blanket law attitude wasn't in place, because that's really all I'm doing wrong," he said. "I did not know I was breaking it."

All that remains of his veritable zoo is 10 guppies and 100 finches, which he breeds to sell.

The cage the monkey called home includes a motorized food distribution system, four dangling tire swings and two plastic children's playhouses. The 60-cubic-foot enclosure, which begins on a sun porch in the back yard, emerges outdoors into a 22-by-20-foot circus-tent-like cage. Mr. Crawford said he used to leave pieces of his shirt for Darwin to sniff for his scent during long days at work and made 5-gallon popsicles for him to lick.

Mr. Crawford owned three American alligators, including the one recently confiscated: Godzilla, Blondie and Relentless.

He said a 3- to 4-foot alligator caught in a Plano creek near a neighborhood in December was Blondie. Authorities couldn't confirm the link.

A small pond in his fenced-in back yard once belonged to the alligators.

Mr. Crawford said Friday that the third alligator somehow scaled the backyard fence in the summer.

He hasn't seen it since.


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