Animal rights activists are calling for a boycott of the Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show because they say an event called the Swampmaster Gator Show condones mistreatment of alligators.
Friends of Animals say alligator wrestler Jeff Quattrocchi provokes alligators with sticks in a large tank before getting the gator to open its mouth so he can show audience members its teeth.
The Gator Show website says the event is “a proven way to increase your attendance, delight folks of all ages, and [it] offers an educational attraction to families.”
“We’ve had very little response, and yesterday the show was a hit,” National Marine Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Sarah Ryser told Soundings Trade Only in an email Thursday.
The boat show released a statement saying organizers had received “several calls expressing concern” about the gator show.
“We want to assure attendees and enthusiasts that the alligators are not harmed as part of the Swampmaster Show, which is first and foremost an educational show,” the statement read.
“All alligators used in the show were trapped and sentenced to death by the state of Florida,” it went on to say. “The professional handler who presents the Swampmaster Show removes them from this environment, works with them for five days, then brings them to a no-kill pond on an alligator sanctuary to live out their lives in a natural habitat.”
Quattrocchi has been bitten at least 13 times, with one serious injury occurring before a crowd of people in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2010. The incident was captured on video and went viral. Quattrocchi told Channel 10 News in Tampa Bay that he usually only uses wild gators that have just been captured because it keeps the shows real.
He also said that using wild gators was for his own protection because they wise up to what's happening after a few shows. He went on to tell the station that he owns about 100 gators that he keeps on his property in the Orlando area.
He was released from Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with 36 staples holding together two ragged gouges in his arm and 23 stitches closing other wounds. Quattrocchi blamed himself for the bite. He says he mistimed his jump and landed in the gator's mouth.
When Quattrocchi was reunited with the gator after the injury, the Tampa Tribune reported that he gave the 8-foot creature a big kiss. “I’m glad he’s OK,” he told the paper.