Lakeland woman hopes to keep pet alligator, 'Rambo'

- A Lakeland woman is hoping the Florida Wildlife Commission will allow her to keep her pet alligator, "Rambo," which is 15-years-old and has recently exceeded the allowable size for a pet alligator at a residence.

Mary Thorn has owned Rambo for the past 10 years. She said he was brought to her with four other alligators when she worked at Market World and they had never lived in the wild. They had lived in poor conditions, she said, with no natural sunlight and very little room to move around. Because the alligators never lived outside, they had developed a sensitivity to light.

Thorn said she decided to keep the alligators and she trained them to be docile. They were trained to keep their snouts clamped tightly shut when people were around. They were also trained to raise their heads so people could pet their chins and necks.

The other four alligators have since died, but Rambo continues to live on and he is now more than six-feet-long. Thorn purchased a Class II license before it changed regulations about keeping alligators as pets, which require a pet alligator more than six-feet-long to live on more than two-and-a-half acres.

Thorn said she used to do appearances with the alligators for various organizations. Today, Thorn struggles with a health issue and now only does charity appearances, giving 100-percent of money earned to the organizations she works with, including Shriners, police departments, Toys for Tots, and Bay Area schools.

American alligators can live to be as old as 50 and can grow up to 19-feet-long. They are dangerous, wild animals, and she insists her message is simple: Do not try to touch an alligator and do not keep them as pets.
Thorn said she took these alligators on to help spread the message that they should be left alone for everyone's sakes.

Thorn said Tuesday evening, an inspector with the FWC told her there may have been a mistake with some paperwork regarding Rambo. The inspector told Thorn she would need to go before a judge to clear the matter up, but could possibly be granted special permission to keep Rambo, especially since he can no longer live outside. FOX 13 reached out to FWC but has not yet received a response.

In the meantime, she waits for a court date where she will get word whether she will get to keep Rambo or will have to surrender him. A court date has not yet been set. 

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