UPDATE: Beloved Pet Nutria Allowed to Stay With Louisiana Family
Update: WWL is now reporting that Neuty the nutria will be allowed to stay with the Lacostes. The family has applied for a permit to keep Neuty, and the process is continuing but is great news for the Lacostes and those who showed support on social media during their drama that unfolded earlier this week.
Original Story: A Louisiana nutria rat captured the hearts of thousands earlier this week but now the family of the motherless rodent is wiping away tears over their beloved pet being taken away.
"Neuty" lived in the West Esplanade Avenue Canal as a wild nutria rat, but one day, while crossing a nearby road, the infant rodent was injured. At the time, Neuty was only a palm-sized nutria; but luckily, a nearby family was able to take it in and nurse it back to good health.
The Lacoste family rescued Neuty back in 2020 and, almost instantly, the nutria became a part of their family.
Denny and Myra Lacoste took Neuty into their Bucktown home and it didn't take long for the nutria rat to become somewhat of a local celebrity.
WWL-TV did a story covering the adorable nutria rat and it didn't take long for the beloved nutria rat to go viral.
Neuty became an instant internet celebrity, catching the attention and the hearts of people all over Louisiana and beyond.
Unfortunately, Neuty's story also caught the attention of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which says it's illegal to possess nutria.
The smiles and feel-good vibes from all the love that Neuty was getting from his internet fame quickly turned into tears as the Lacostes had their family pet snatched away by LDWF.
LDWF released a statement, claiming that arrangements have been made for the Baton Rouge Zoo to accept Neuty.
A family's pet nutria is set to be removed from the home of a New Orleans couple and moved to the Baton Rouge Zoo to be part of an educational exhibit, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced Thursday.
It is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet, especially a nutria, which is an invasive species and could be a source of health issues.
LDWF discovered the existence of the pet nutria after stories about the animal appeared this week in New Orleans area media. Once the status was made public, the department recommended its removal. The department also started communications with the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission which operates the Baton Rouge Zoo, to find a means of saving the animal.
BREC and Zoo officials agreed Thursday to accept the animal.
After those arrangements were completed, LDWF agents contacted the owners and told them that the animal will be removed and that arrangements have been made with the BR Zoo. In most cases, the animal would be placed back into the wild. However, LDWF biologists and Zoo officials said that because the animal has been habituated to humans, it would not be able to survive in the wild.
It is well known in Louisiana that nutria causes extensive damage to wetlands, agricultural crops, and structural foundations, including roads and dikes. They may also threaten human health and safety and serve as a reservoir for several diseases.
It is against the law in Louisiana to possess injured or orphaned mammals without an LDWF Rehabilitation permit, even if there is a plan to release them. It is illegal to possess wildlife as a pet or for the pet trade. There is no permit for this activity, and no permit will be issued for it.
In a statement issued Thursday, Zoo officials said it "plans to take in the nutria into our animal family after a short stint at a rehabilitation facility…The nutria will join our Ambassador Animal Program.
"The Zoo has another male nutria that's already a part of the ambassador animal program, so the two will eventually be acclimated and brought together. As social animals, the nutria should be comfortably at ease and enjoy this exposure to another animal of the same species.
"The Zoo's professional staff will care for the nutria as they would all other animals within their skilled care and looks forward to bringing a new member into the zoo animal family."
LDWF appreciates the owner's affection for the animal and their understanding of the rules regarding its removal. LDWF discourages the public from housing wild animals as pets.
Although the Lacostes reportedly received a ticket for "possession of a wild quadruped without a license," when they showed up to grab the rodent, Neuty wasn't home.
Images captured by photographer Chris Granger showed the heartbreaking moment the Lacoste family met with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials.
There has been a large amount of pushback against the LDWF decision on social media, as many have said they feel like Neuty was getting the best care from the Lacoste family who has provided a loving home and care for the large rodent for the past few years.
Someone even started a GoFundMe that has garnered over 5,000 signatures at the time of this post.
While we aren't sure what will come of Neuty and his adoptive family, it's a story that we will follow as it develops.