Mary Thorn said her 15-year-old alligator, Rambo, is a docile pet and would not survive for long out of her care. Photo by Mary Thorn/Facebook
LAKELAND, Fla., March 16 (UPI) -- A Florida woman fighting to keep her beloved pet alligator said 15-year-old Rambo "has never been a normal gator."
Mary Thorn of Lakeland said Rambo, the only survivor of five alligators she adopted after they were found being kept in cramped and dark conditions 11 years ago, is house trained, understands sign language commands and loves to dress in costumes, which she said also serve a practical purpose because the pet is sensitive to light.
Thorn said she obtained a license to keep Rambo as a pet in 2012, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is now trying to seize her pet because he has grown past 6 feet long, the maximum size allowed for someone living on less than 2.5 acres.
Thorn said she is asking the commission to make an exception for Rambo due to his unusual nature and because she obtained her license before the 2.5-acre provision was added onto the law.
"He's like my son. He's my family," Thorn told the New York Daily News. "He's not a normal gator. He has never been a normal gator."
She said Rambo is trained to keep his mouth shut around people and does not pose any danger to humans or animals.
"He loves kids and when kids come around he shuts his mouth really tight so fingers can't go in his mouth," Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel.
She said he is also fond of dogs.
"He watches TV on top of my dogs," she said. "People get along with him, kids love him. Brand new babies have sat with him to do pictures."
FWC spokesman Gary Morse said officials are looking into Thorn's case and no final decision has been made about whether Rambo will be allowed to stay.
Thorn said she is worried about what might happen to Rambo at an alligator sanctuary.
"They'll treat him like a normal gator, and he'll be dead in weeks," she said. "If he gets put in a tent with other gators, they'll eat him. His immune system is low -- other gators will go after sick gators."