Fate of petting zoo east of Naples returns to court next week

David Albers/Staff
- Hennings' Gator Adventures petting zoo sits closed on Saturday, March 30, 2013, near the intersection of U.S. 41 East and San Marco Road, about 15 miles southeast of Naples in Collier County.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Hennings' Gator Adventures petting zoo sits closed on Saturday, March 30, 2013, near the intersection of U.S. 41 East and San Marco Road, about 15 miles southeast of Naples in Collier County.

David Albers/Staff
- A juvenile American alligator sits in a cage in Hennings' Gator Adventures as the petting zoo sits closed on Saturday, March 30, 2013, near the intersection of U.S. 41 East and San Marco Road, about 15 miles southeast of Naples in Collier County.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - A juvenile American alligator sits in a cage in Hennings' Gator Adventures as the petting zoo sits closed on Saturday, March 30, 2013, near the intersection of U.S. 41 East and San Marco Road, about 15 miles southeast of Naples in Collier County.

— A petting zoo east of Naples remains closed as a court dispute between two partners in the venture continues another week.

Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie was set to hear the case Tuesday afternoon, but rescheduled it to next Wednesday, April 10, to allow more than an hour for witness testimony.

The lawsuit was filed by Marco Island Police Officer Kevin Hennings, who founded Gator Adventures and operated the reptile portion of the petting zoo. Hennings is represented by attorney Robert Bates, of Marco Island and New Jersey.

Hennings went to court when partner and landowner Refik Peksen of Hammock Realty wanted out of the venture and to remove Hennings, along with all of Hennings’ animals, workers and property from the site located on U.S. 41 East at San Marco Road, about 15 miles southeast of Naples.

Hennings, who operates Gator Adventures through the nonprofit Florida Wildlife Advisory Group, requested more than $15,000 in damages or for a judge to require the landowner to allow Hennings to continue his operation on Peksen’s land.

In addition to access to the petting zoo, the dispute involves proper collection and distribution of petting zoo admission fees and donations. Hennings maintains that his operation’s purpose was for children’s science-based scholarships and that Peksen, who also owned birds, goats, bunnies and other animals on the site, sought to profit off the petting zoo as a tourist attraction.

Peksen’s attorney, Craig Woodward, of Marco Island, has said the money collected by Gator Adventures wasn’t accounted for nor deposited in a joint bank account as agreed.

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