INSIDE EDITION (WTXF) Florida woman is fighting to keep her clothes-wearing pet alligator, which she says she's raised like a child.
Mary Thorn of Lakeland says her alligator, a 125-pound gentle giant named Rambo, could be taken by the state because he's grown too large.
Thorn says the news has come as a real blow, both because she's such an animal lover and because Rambo in particular has become such an important part of her family.
"Rambo has been with me since he was a baby," Thorn told InsideEdition.com. "This animal is more like a human than an alligator."
Thorn said she rescued Rambo 11 years ago from living captive in inhumane conditions. She said he spent the first four years of his life with four other alligators crammed into a 10 gallon fish tank that was kept in a closet.
According to Thorn, this made Rambo very sensitive to sunlight.
"He can’t go outside at all unless he wears sunscreen and I put clothes on him," Thorn said.
Rambo is even potty trained and does a special wag of the tail to tell Thorn he needs to go outside.
Until recently, Rambo whiled away his days happily in Thorn's home. She says she took Rambo to charity and school functions and that he's become something of a celebrity in the Lakeland area.
But this summer, Thorn says a growth spurt put Rambo six feet long. According to Florida state captive wildlife rules, a gator of that size must have 2.5 acres of land on which to live.
Because Thorn doesn't have the extra space, she says the state wants to take Rambo away.
"I've lost my son last year and this gator is the only thing that keeps me going, and it just drives my everyday life," Thorn said.
When InsideEdition.com reached Florida Fish and Wildlife's Gary Morse about Thorn's troubles, he confirmed there was an ongoing investigation into Rambo.
Morse said Thorn adopted Rambo before the 2.5 acre rule was instated "but there are additional issues" of concern with the gator, he said.
If the state decides to force Thorn to give up Rambo, Thorn said a friend has volunteered to take him, "but he treats him like an alligator" and not a person.
Thorn fears that if a rescue group takes Rambo, they won't properly account for his light sensitivity and vulnerability to other gators and "he'll be dead in weeks."
"He’s a compassionate gator," Thorn said, while asking for compassion, herself. "I’ve had four of them, none of them tried to bite anybody. A brand new baby a day old has sat on this gator and he just rubbed his head up and down on it."
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