A retired firefighter from Coconut Grove, Florida is fighting to keep his pet alligator that has lived on his property for almost five decades. David Van Buren has had Gwendolyn the alligator since he was 9-years-old, almost 50 years ago, and he even brought his pet gator to college with him where it mostly chilled in the bathtub. He feeds his pet gator a diet of chocolate chip cookies and cheese pizza because apparently, that’s what his gator pal likes to eat.
Well, the city of Miami is trying to take away his alligator and he’s fighting tooth and nail to keep Gwendolyn (Gwen is a male gator btw, which I know is weird given that Gwendolyn is definitely a chick’s name).
Van Buren has had Gwendolyn for the past 47 years, since he was 9 years old. He even took the gator to college.
Nowadays, Gwen’s more of a homebody. “Once he was in the house, he didn’t want to leave,” said Van Buren. “I think it took us like three weeks to get him to go back outside. He was on the couch all the time or in the bathtub.”
When asked why he named a male gator Gwendolyn, Van Buren said he originally thought the reptile was a female. After about 20 years or so, however, he was proven otherwise.
If Van Buren and his pet sound familiar, it’s because they made national news in the early 1990s. In 1994, the state took Gwendolyn away from the retired firefighter.
The ensuing courtroom battle made headlines around the country. A judge ultimately decided Gwendolyn could go back home to Coconut Grove.
Fast forward 22 years later, and Gwendolyn is still enjoying his favorite snack. “You want some cookies? Chips Ahoy! Look, your favorite,” said Van Buren as he fed his gator.
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The city is trying to relocate his alligator and it’s really not good for all parties involved. The gator himself, Gwendolyn, has grown too large for Van Buren’s backyard. Florida has laws dictating that properties must be of certain sizes proportional to the sizes of alligators, bigger gators need bigger properties, and they say that Gwendolyn’s outgrown Van Buren’s backyard even though she’s practically 100% domesticated.
There’s nowhere in the wild that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) could relocate Gwendolyn to where he’d be able to survive, so really he could only be taken in by zoos or aquariums at this point. And I don’t think he’ll be getting his usual diet of cheese pizza and chocolate chip cookies at the zoo, so it’s really a lose-lose for both parties if FWC ends up relocating the alligator.
As of now FWC has said that the best outcome in this situation is for Gwendolyn the alligator to remain with his owner David, but Van Buren will have to make some serious changes to his property in order to keep the gator, and it looks like he went on the PR defensive by getting in the local news instead of forking over the cash for those changes….
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