METAIRIE, La. — The Lacoste family said they are, "beyond devastated," after state authorities arrived at their Metairie business Thursday night to take away their 22-pound pet nutria.
The 2-year-old nutria, named Neuty, has become a local celebrity in his Jefferson Parish neighborhood of Bucktown. The rodent also goes to work with the Lacoste family at Dennis' Seafood in Metairie.
Despite reports that the nutria has been confiscated, the family told Eyewitness News on Thursday night that Neuty had not, in fact, been taken away yet by authorities.
“We’ve been having him for two and half years and all of a sudden they show up today and say, we got to take him,” Myra Lacoste said.
On Wednesday, Eyewitness News reported on Neuty's local celebrity status and daily routine.
The Lacoste family said they had researched exotic pets and found that Jefferson Parish allowed them. Now, Wildlife and Fisheries, which is a state entity, is saying it's not allowed.
"It is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet," Wildlife and Fisheries said on Thursday. "Especially a nutria."
The Lacoste family said they were given a ticket from Wildlife and Fisheries for "possession of a wild quadruped without a license," with a warning that the animal is to be turned over to them as soon as possible.
Wildlife and Fisheries plan to move the orange-toothed rodent to a rehabilitation center and then to the Baton Rouge Zoo.
According to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Baton Rouge Zoo officials already have plans for Neuty.
"The nutria will join our Ambassador Animal Program," Zoo officials apparently told Louisiana 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."
The Lacoste family said they found the rodent injured on the side of the road on Christmas Eve 2020. Neuty was almost a goner, the family said cars on the road had crushed his siblings.
Now, the family said the rodent has become just another pet, like the family dog.
"He loves our dogs; he thinks he's one of them. You know he stands up and begs for treats," Lacoste said. "I don't know what's going to happen, I don't know how to fight it."
Nutria have become a source of political debate and controversy as the species is considered part of an invasive species harming Louisiana wetlands.
The rodent is potty-trained and has a diet of fruits, veggies and crawfish.
Neuty's reputation has even extended to social media, where the nutria has a TikTok account.
In 2020, the U.S. House passed a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) that supports allocating money to states battling the rodent, including Louisiana.