Mary Thorn is fighting to keep her 6-foot, 125-pound pet alligator, Rambo, at her home in Lakeland, Florida (video below).
Rambo is potty trained, can read sign language, rides on Thorn's motorcycle and has his own room.
“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.”
“He watches TV on top of my dogs,” Thorn added. “People get along with him, kids love him. Brand new babies have sat with him to do pictures.”
When Thorn and the indoor gator go outside, she dresses him in large dog clothing to keep his sensitive skin from burning.
“Everyone will tell you that I treat that animal like a baby,” Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel. “He doesn’t do anything a normal gator does.”
Thorn has owned Rambo for 11 years and has a proper license, but the 15-year-old gator is legally too big to live with her, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The alligator must have have 2.5 acres of land available under state law.
Thorn said that Rambo would not use any extra land because of his sensitivity to sunlight, because he spent his early years in a dark closet.
Thorn has a letter from the Privileged Critters Animal Hospital in Lakeland that says alligators raised in this type of environment can have a light sensitivity and shouldn't be "left outside for any length of time."
Thorn takes the well-trained alligator to schools, conventions and events sponsored by charities to meet the public.
“When there’s kids around, he doesn’t want to hurt them even by accident, so he closes his mouth real tight so the kids can’t get their fingers inside,” Thorn told the New York Daily News. “He’s never hurt anyone.”
According to FWC spokesman Gary Morse, the alligator case is still under review with no deadline.
Thorn may be able to keep Rambo because she had him before the 2.5 acre rule went into effect, but she has to go to court and cannot find someone to care for Rambo in the meantime.
A reptile attraction has offered to house Rambo, but Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel, "I know when he goes there he’s going to be really afraid and he’s probably going to pass away from stress."
Thorn may try to get her alligator certified as a therapy animal.
“Without him, I don’t feel like even wanting to go on,” Thorn said. “Everybody is taking it pretty hard because they know how much I love the gator.”