LAKELAND — A
woman has won permission from Florida authorities to keep her beloved alligator, thanks in part to the legal efforts of a New York attorney who was hired, apparently, because of his efforts to save a notorious subway vigilante’s squirrel from eviction.
Mary Thorn came to an a agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to keep her alligator, Rambo, who had grown too large for her home and plot of land.
The agreement came after Thorn, who was initially denied a license, managed to tap the legal services of Great Neck, New York, attorney Spencer Sheehan.
Sheehan said he is pretty sure that he was hired because of a recent, fairly high-profile, case in which he was representing Bernhard Goetz, who had been catapulted into the spotlight in the 1980s after shooting four black men he claimed were trying to mug him on the subway. The case, which is continuing, involves attempts by Goetz’s landlord to evict his three-legged, and partially paralyzed, squirrel named Glinda’s Sister from his Manhattan apartment.
Sheehan told the Florida Record he became involved in Thorn's case after being asked if he could help her.
“Somebody found out, Googled and found my name, not her directly because I do not think she is too computer savvy,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan said he petitioned to be admitted to be heard in a Florida court, and then filed papers on Thorn’s behalf. An agreement with the FWC was reached in September, and Thorn was issued a special personal-use pet license for her alligator in November.
Thorn, who had rescued the alligator and has owned Rambo for 12 years, had been displaying the animal, wearing outfits, in shows for children and others in the area.
Rambo became a legal issue when the alligator had grown to close to 6 feet and Florida law requires any alligator over 4 feet to have a certain amount of land to roam and a special license.
The agreement between Thorn and the FWC comes with restrictions regarding Rambo.
“He can’t go out and do public things any more,” Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel. “He can’t be one-on-one with people and his mouth has to be taped shut. He used to do pictures with kids and stuff like that, but no more.”
The restrictions have curtailed the 54-year-old Thorn’s ability to make a living by barring her from taking Rambo to parties and special events, where she used to dress him up in outfits. Rambo also can no longer ride in the sidecar of Thorn's motorcycle or in the front seat of her van.
“In order to keep him I’m not going to argue with them too much,” Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel.
Sheehan, the lawyer, said it was a little crazy how he got involved in the case. As a New York-licensed lawyer, he had to find a local attorney to sponsor him.
“It has hard to find someone (in) this type of case,” Sheehan said. “I could not pay him. He was really working for charity.”