Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

City Seizes Clyde the Caiman; Owners Sue

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) - A doctor sued the city of Homewood for confiscating his pet caiman, a 3-ft. 6-inch alligatorlike critter named Clyde, whom the doctor has had for 26 years. Dr. Richard Martin and his wife say Clyde is not an alligator, as the city claims, and that its ordinance does not define what "inherently dangerous" means.

Martin says a city animal control officer confiscated Clyde, without a warrant, on Oct. 12, in response to a report that he had an alligator living in his basement.

His wife told the animal police "that there was not an alligator in the home but that her husband owned a common spectacled caiman that was in an aquarium in the basement."

The animal police insisted, so Susan Martin called her husband, who "under intimidation and threat of arrest," let the animal police into their home.

Richard Martin says the animal cop, assisted by two pet store employees, "were unsuccessful in removing Clyde from the aquarium using a lasso and towel," so to protect Clyde from harm, he took Clyde from the aquarium himself and put him in a container provided by the pet store.

Martin acknowledges that the city ordinance under which Clyde was arrested specifically refers to "crocodiles and alligators," but he says Clyde is not a crocodile or an alligator - he's a caiman.

"The Homewood City Ordinance omits a definition for 'inherently dangerous,'" he adds.

Martin says Clyde "is not an inherently dangerous reptile and should not have been removed from the care and custody of the Martins."

He says he and his wife "through their attorney have attempted to ascertain the procedure and cost to reclaim their pet and have been denied information as to how to reclaim their pet."

The Martins seek declaratory judgment "that brown spectacled caiman are not inherently dangerous reptiles and specifically Clyde is not an inherently dangerous reptile," and that the city's law on exotic animals is "overly vague and subjective making it an undue burden upon residen[ts] to comply."

They also claim that the ordinance violates the 5th Amendment "in that it is a constructive taking of personal property without due process and just compensation," and that Clyde's arrest violated the 4th Amendment as an illegal search and seizure.

They want Clyde back, and they want the city enjoined from invading their privacy again.

They are represented by David Bedgood, of Pelham, Ala., in Jefferson County Court.

The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), native to Central and South America, can grow to 8 feet long. Because they can live in salt or fresh water they are the most common of call crocodilians. They change color and become darker in the cold.

Baby caiman are yellow with black spots. They become dark green like mom and dad as they age. Mother caiman will care for their own young as well as the young of other caiman in the caiman neighborhood.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.