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Man wants banned gators in courtroom

May 22, 2012 at 3:26 PM

COLUMBIA, Mo., May 22 (UPI) -- A Missouri man banned from bringing his alligators back into Boone County wants the gators to be allowed in a courtroom for his animal abuse trial.

Ken Henderson, 67, of Kansas City, faces17 counts of animal abuse after Columbia/Boone County Animal Control officers searched his van last June while it was at the Boone County Fairgrounds and seized seven alligators of various sizes, The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune reported Tuesday.

Six of the alligators were returned to Henderson, but he was ordered not to bring them back to Boone County.

Kevin O'Brien, Henderson's lawyer, said he wants the alligators to be allowed in the courtroom during the trial to show the jury that the reptiles are domesticated. He said Henderson and his alligators have appeared on the cable network Animal Planet.

"We would like to show the jury that these are not normal alligators. He cares for them just like a dog owner cares for their pet. … They even sit on his lap," O'Brien said.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Haigh said bringing gators into the courtroom would raise safety issues and "literally turns the case into a circus."

"I don't see how it will be relevant to show the jury how the animals conduct themselves presently," Haigh said. "This case is about the events and circumstances of a year ago."

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