Florida Man Singlehandedly Saves Puppy from the Jaws of an Alligator

@itsjuanlove via Twitter

A 74-year-old man learned the hard way that he needs to keep his new puppy on a leash. Richard Wilbanks lives in Florida, and he recently adopted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gunner. He thought it would be okay to let Gunner go for a walk without a leash, but he was mistaken.

Wilbanks and Gunner were out for a walk near a pond when an alligator tried to eat the puppy. Wilbanks told CNN, “We were just out walking by the pond, and it came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”

A combination of instinct and adrenaline caused Wilbanks to do something somewhat unthinkable. He jumped in the water, caught the alligator and wrestled it until it was above water. He says that was the easy part. Wilbanks said the hard part was prying the alligator’s jaws open so he could free Gunner.

Wilbanks’ heroic act was caught on video thanks to a video surveillance camera, and it has now gone viral. He didn’t even drop the cigar in his mouth during the rescue. Watch the footage below.

Viewers on Twitter have mixed feelings about the video. Some call Wilbanks “a real man” while others criticize him for not having his puppy on a leash.

Wilbanks says that he and Gunner are going to be okay. He took Gunner to the veterinarian where he got a tetanus shot. He had a puncture wound in his belly, but he is recovering well. Wilbanks told WINK, “my hands were just chewed up.” Wilbanks feels lucky that he was able to save his pet’s life.

The pair still go for walks around the pond, but Wilbanks keeps Gunner on a leash. They also make sure they stay at least 10 feet away from the edge of the pond.

Meredith Budd, regional policy director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said, “We live on a shared landscape. We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.”

Wilbanks does not want the alligator destroyed or harmed in any way. He recognizes this as a learning experience. His wife, Louise Wilbanks, explained to WINK, “We do need to be aware they are wild animals. They’re not here for our benefit. We’re very lucky to share this space with them.”