Louisiana settles for family to keep pet otter

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — After much public outcry, state officials now say they will allow a Louisiana couple to keep a 22-pound otter, a rat-tailed rodent with orange teeth and beady eyes, commonly considered a wetland pest, as a pet having fun with her dog, she snuggles in his arms and swims in the family pool.

The Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a statement Friday, said Myra and Denny Lacoste can apply for a permit so they can legally keep Neuty the Otter in their New Orleans home, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans reported. advocate. . Montoucet said details of the permit are being finalized.

The announcement came after more than 17,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the state leave Neuty and his family alone.

“I think this is a good conclusion for all parties,” Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife Secretary Jack Montoucet said.

The rodent has lived with the Lacostes for more than two years. The wildlife department initially said Thursday that it had arranged for the animal to be transported to the Baton Rouge Zoo, citing state law that prohibits ownership of an otter, which is considered an invasive species. But after the response, the agency provided special conditions that allowed the family to keep the otter as a pet within the law, according to the newspaper.

“We are beyond ecstatic,” said Myra Lacoste.

Denny Lacoste came across the injured animal in 2020 when his brothers were killed in traffic. He and his wife hand-fed the animal until it could eat on its own. Then they bred it as a pet.

Now the animal is a social media star, appearing in TikTok videos and seen in a New Orleans Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate video lovingly held by Denny Lacoste, scampering across the floor on a towel and chewing a raw crayfish. . Lacoste told the newspaper that Neuty even likes to ride in the car with his head out the window.

Myra Lacoste said she and her husband agreed to several stipulations, including regular veterinary checks and keeping him in a cage when he was at the family seafood business, to provide for their pet.

Otters were introduced to North America over a century ago and are considered a nuisance invasive species in Louisiana. Their appetite for wetland vegetation and digging into levees make flood control difficult, harm agriculture, and contribute to the loss of coastal wetlands. On several occasions, public officials have offered them rewards and have encouraged hunting them for their skins and even for food.

They are sometimes derided as “otter rats”. However, they have also become such a familiar part of the Louisiana landscape and lore that a New Orleans minor league baseball team once employed costumed actors as larger-than-life caricatures of the creatures as mascots: Boudreaux and Clotilde.

Now that the ordeal is over, Myra Lacoste said: “We can’t wait to hug him and kiss him.”

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