1. Archive

Will he get to see his gator later?

Gwendolyn the alligator and her owner of 24 years were reunited in what turned out to be a brief, sad meeting.

The 7{-foot, 107-pound alligator, who came running to owner David Van Buren's calls only one month ago, cowered Thursday in a shipping box supplied by the state. Florida impounded the beast Sept. 17 after the reptile wandered into a neighbor's yard.

"For her to back away from me breaks my heart," Van Buren said. "Usually, the moment she sees me she comes right over, knowing there will be a handout. Now she is absolutely terrified of humans.

Van Buren blamed his pet's trauma on state custody or shipment, saying it showed "absolutely no heart whatsoever."

Gwendolyn was pronounced healthy by two veterinarians and returned the care of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The alligator's whereabouts remain a secret.

Efforts to have a judge order the state to return Gwendolyn to Van Buren continue Tuesday in Dade County Court. Van Buren's neighbors have petitioned for the animal's release.

"The more delay there is, the more damage there is to the animal," said Miami attorney Patrick O'Brien, a specialist in animal law.

Henry Cabbage, a commission spokesman, said Gwendolyn might instead be placed in public facility such as Lion County Safari in Palm Beach County.

Van Buren said he is happy to see his longtime pet still alive. The alligator has been with the 33-year-old for most of his adult life.

"I promised her today I would get her home, and I intend to keep my promise at any cost," Van Buren said.