NEW ORLEANS — Just a day after making his WWL-TV debut, “Neuty” the nutria is now wanted by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, but the community seems to be on the TikTok-famous rodent’s side.
Wildlife and Fisheries arrived at the Lacoste family’s business in Metairie Thursday night to take away their 2-year-old pet nutria, but the buck-toothed celebrity was allegedly not there at the time.
"It is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet," the department said. "Especially a nutria." However, Neuty's adoptive mom told Eyewitness News she researched exotic pets prior to adopting him, and said Jefferson Parish allowed it at the time.
The family says they are "beyond devastated," and the 22-pound rodent’s fans are outraged. Over 5,000 of them signed a petition to “Free Neuty” and return him to his adoptive parents. The petition, posted on change.org, appears to have been started by satire website Neutral Ground News. Their current goal is to reach 7,500 signatures.
The petition organizers say Neuty was confiscated by authorities, however, the family told Eyewitness News on Thursday night that authorities have not taken Neuty away yet. The family says Wildlife and Fisheries gave them a ticket for "possession of a wild quadruped without a license," with a warning that the animal needs to be turned over to them as soon as possible.
The satire website is now selling T-shirts that say “Free Neuty,” in reference to protecting him from being taken from his family.
Some people who signed the petition included their reasoning. One user said, “there [is] no reason for this animal to be taken away from the people who rescued it as an injured baby.” Another said, “Neuty has been well loved and cared for by these people. He will not survive on his own. He will grieve for his humans and his home.”
Once he is confiscated, he is expected to be taken to the Baton Rouge Zoo, according to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.
"The nutria will join our Ambassador Animal Program," Zoo officials allegedly told Wildlife and Fisheries. "The zoo has another male nutria that's already part of the ambassador animal program, so the two will eventually be acclimated and brought together."
Nutria have become a source of political debate and controversy as the species is considered part of an invasive species harming Louisiana wetlands.
In 2020, the U.S. House passed a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves that supports allocating money to states battling the rodent, including Louisiana.
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