Two charged with criminal negligence over famous Montreal alligator, which later bit toddler

An alligator escaped from a minivan Sunday and crossed Jarry Street. He was quickly captured. SOURCE Mayssam Samaha

The owners of Montreal's famous, or infamous, street-crossing alligator are facing serious charges over their handling of the gator—not over its trip across a busy street last December but over the treatment of children in the care of the gator's owners.

Emilie Gaudry-Collins, 36, and Jonathan Gemme, 28, are facing charges of criminal negligence, apparently over an incident where the alligator bit a child last winter.

The two, both residents of Sainte-Julie, a suburb south of Montreal, were charged last week with criminal negligence causing a wound to a child, according to a written warrant provided by the Richelieu-Saint-Laurent intermunicipal police.

Gemme also faces a charge of failing to provide the necessities of life to three minors in a way that could endanger their lives or permanently harm their health.

To protect the children’s identities, police couldn’t specify the relationship between them and the accused, said a police spokesman. The children are listed by their initials.

All the charges stem from an incident around Feb. 1, according to the warrant.

TODDLER BITTEN

That week, police told media that the alligator had bitten a preschool-aged girl at the home of the animal’s owner—an incident which was only reported to police two days later.

At the time, police said they were looking into the incident to determine if they had grounds to pursue a criminal investigation.

The girl wasn't seriously injured by the bite, police said at the time.

The city of Sainte-Julie also issued a fine of $250 at the time for contravening a bylaw that forbids people from having exotic animals in their home.

The alligator is owned by an exotic wildlife company in Sainte-Julie, Repti-Zone, and has the proper licences—but these licences do not include the right to keep the animal at home.

The owner is a repeat offender, the town said at the time.

In 2018, the Journal Saint-Francois in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield reported that Gaudry-Collins, then 34 years old, had been imprisoned for a week over an incident the previous year that also involved a large reptile on the loose.

An “imposing lizard” had been found wandering around in Léry, just south of Chateauguay, in August 2017, the paper wrote. 

Wildlife department agents called Gaudry-Collins to tell her, and she jumped in her car to come collect the lizard.

However, she committed a violation of the Highway Act in doing so, since her driver's licence had been suspended over an earlier sanction for impaired driving, according to the paper.

FIRST LOST GATOR INCIDENT WAS IN 2015

Last year’s incident wasn’t the first time that the same woman lost an alligator on Montreal’s streets. 

In August 2015, Emilie Gaudry, as she was then called, lost track of a one-metre-long alligator named Ali, according to an article from the Journal de Montreal.

That time, the alligator was found by a passerby at around 1 a.m. on Ontario St. in Tétreaultville, in Montreal’s far east end, near where Gaudry-Collins was living at the time. Police trapped it with the help of overturned trash cans.

She told the paper that it was the first time she’d ever lost an animal from her exotic-animal business and that she was frantic with worry, even though she said he was domesticated.

“Usually a muzzle is put on him during demonstrations,” she was quoted as saying. “But I'm used to it, so I hug him without one.”

At the time the Montreal police said they wouldn’t be laying charges.

Gaudry-Collins also told that paper that she founded Repti-Zone in 2008, when she would have been about 24 years old, to “break down prejudices about reptiles.”

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