A view of the four-foot-long caiman that D.C. police found Wednesday night. (D.C. police)

UPDATE, July 31:

Authorities said further examination showed the animal was an alligator, not a caiman.

“When we reached out to the staff of the wildlife refuge ... and sent more close up pictures at various angles, they told us it was a juvenile American alligator,” David M. Smith, chief of communications for the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in an email. “Juvenile caimans and alligators are very similar in appearance.”


A four-foot-long caiman, a reptile similar to an alligator, was found in a large storage bin this week in the basement of a home in Southeast Washington.

Twelve dogs and dogfighting paraphernalia also were taken from the residence.

D.C. police posted a tweet about the caiman Thursday, calling it an alligator, but officials at the D.C. Humane Rescue Alliance corrected police: It’s actually a caiman.

The Humane Rescue Alliance received a tip about the animal at a home in the 3500 block of Brothers Place SE, near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in the Congress Heights neighborhood. With a search warrant, the rescue group, with help from D.C. police, went to the home Wednesday and found the caiman.

David M. Smith, chief of communications for the Humane Rescue Alliance, said the animal was taken by authorities. Police said it would be relocated to a “safe habitat.”

Smith said it is illegal to possess the animal in the District and surrounding states, calling them dangerous. Police doubled down on that sentiment in a Twitter post: “Remember that alligators should not be considered house pets!”

It wasn’t clear Thursday why the residents of the home had the caiman, officials said.

Smith said the Humane Rescue Alliance had the property under surveillance after a dog jumped a fence and hung itself from a leash a month ago. Twelve dogs — six adults and six puppies — and dogfighting paraphernalia were also seized, Smith said.

Eleven of the dogs seized were American pitbull terriers, according to Chris Schindler, vice president of field services for the Humane Rescue Alliance, and one was a Rottweiler mix.

No one has been arrested, but the incident is under investigation.

Caimans are typically found in rivers and streams in Mexico, as well as Central and South America, and eat birds, fish and insects. Their bodies are more narrow than those of crocodiles and alligators, but experts warn that caimans can be more aggressive. Dwarf caimans are sometimes sold as pets.

Smith called it a “very rare” discovery in the District. Although it’s not the first time animal rescue officials have come across a caiman, Smith said he couldn’t recall specifics of other incidents.

Still, there was plenty of reaction on social media.

A Twitter user who goes by @bonsaidream replied to D.C. police, saying, “I’m sorry... did you say D.C.? Washington, D.C.?”

Indeed, the nation’s capital. This isn’t the Sunshine State.

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