When 7-year-old Olivia Sullivan ran inside her Penn Township home and told her father "come on, there's an alligator in the backyard," he didn't believe her.
Penn Township police officer John Carbaugh told Olivia's mom, Jaime, that when she called to report the alligator in her backyard, he didn't believe her.
Still, it turned out that it was indeed an approximately 3-foot alligator that had managed to find its way onto a wood pile in the back yard of the Forry Street residence Sunday morning.
Olivia had taken her dog Eli outside around 9 a.m. before heading off to church with the rest of her family of eight. Suddenly, the dog started barking at the wood pile towards the back of the yard.
"I thought it was a stick," Olivia said. "But it moved a little bit."
Jaime Sullivan wasn't even sure what to do about an alligator in a residential area. She tried to call the SPCA and Animal Control, both of which were closed, before dialing 911.
"I thought to myself, 'Should we catch it?'" Sullivan said. "But how do I even catch an alligator? What, are we in Florida now?"
When Officer Carbaugh responded to the call, he walked around back, took one look at the wild animal, and laughed, according to Sullivan.
Carbaugh was able to reach someone at the fish commission, but was told it wasn't an animal that was under that agency's protection.
Three additional Penn Township officers were called to the scene to assist the situation but it was Carbaugh who finally got a noose around the alligator's head. With no experience in wildlife control, the officers reverted to using information learned from reality television to handle the alligator.
"We duct-taped its mouth because, honestly, that's what we'd seen watching 'Swamp People' on TV," Carbaugh said. "We were dealing with public safety so our primary goal was to just capture this thing and get it in control."
Eventually, the four officers managed to catch the alligator and put it in one of the Sullivan family's plastic garbage cans.
"He was a strong bugger," Carbaugh said. "I was surprised because it really took all the effort to get him still."
According to Carbaugh, all of the neighborhood children wanted to pet the alligator, while the adults just wanted to keep their distance.
The alligator is now under the care of a private animal rescue organization located in Manchester Township, according to Carbaugh.
"Our presumption is that it was probably a pet, because it looked like it was well taken care of," Carbaugh said. "Honestly it probably got too big and the owners just let it go. As far as we know, no one has called for it."
After all was said and done, Jaime Sullivan said she still couldn't believe their wild experience.
"I just keep thinking thank the Lord for our dog Eli," Sullivan said. "I mean it could have attacked one of the kids."
As for Olivia, her grandmother went out later that day and bought her a much safer stuffed alligator toy to play with.