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Maybe No One Wanted the Job of Saying 'See Ya Later'


A Laguna Hills man will be allowed to keep his menagerie of alligators, pot-bellied pigs and exotic birds, provided he keeps his gators--a pair of 400-pounders named Bonnie and Clyde--from roaming freely in their suburban sanctuary.

Nicholas Amodio was also told Tuesday by the City Council that he must keep his pigs penned and at least 50 feet from his Savona Street neighbors.

"The City Council's main objectives were the safety of the animals and the safety of anyone who might come into the yard," said Mayor Randal J. Bressette.

Amodio, 59, feared the alligators--which he has raised since they hatched nearly three decades ago--would be destroyed if the city told him they had to go. And, he argued, Bonnie and Clyde have never bitten or even snapped at anyone.

As for his other pets, they are like family, said Amodio, who lives alone.

Amodio's "Savona Street Sanctuary" began raising eyebrows at City Hall last fall, after neighbors complained about a noisy flock of wild peafowl that had taken a liking to the thick canopy of eucalyptus trees and bamboo in his backyard. And while the neighbors were at it, they made note of Amodio's two gators, his two pigs--Bubba and Lulu--and the 100 or so rare and exotic birds he kept in a large aviary.

The peafowl eventually left on their own. But Amodio, who began converting his backyard into a makeshift zoo 28 years ago, had larger problems. His South County neighborhood was county territory when he began adopting birds and other creatures. But when the area was annexed by Laguna Hills three years ago, the rules changed. Laguna Hills does not allow such exotic pets.

"I don't think any of us had any idea that he had the birds and alligators at his home, and there was no provision for it in the city code," Bressette said.

Only the City Council had the clout to say he could keep the pets. And Tuesday, after six months of delays, council members finally gave him the nod, with a few conditions.

Bonnie and Clyde will have to be separated by a dig-proof, concrete barrier. The pigs, who now share part of the yard with Clyde, will have to be penned and kept at least 50 feet from neighboring homes. Finally, in an effort to thin out Amodio's collection, the council said he can't replace any gator, pig or bird when it dies. Nor can he pass along his permit to keep the animals to any future owners of the property.

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