RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Animal services officers often get calls reporting "huge," monstrous reptiles, only to arrive and find an itty-bitty garden snake.
The 5-foot Monitor lizard wandering around a condo complex in the city of Riverside was way bigger than animal control officer Jenny Selter could have imagined.
"She said she saw it and almost jumped back in her truck," said John Welsh, spokesman for Riverside County Animal Services. "The residents were freaking out because here's the Godzilla-like creature walking down the sidewalk."
Selter managed to get a catch pole -- a long pole with a loop at the end that's used to handle vicious dogs -- around the animal's neck, Welsh said. It was docile at first, but then it started hissing.
A police officer grabbed the lizard's body while Selter held onto its sharp, lashing tail, and together they put it in a compartment of her truck that's usually used for large dogs.
Black-throated Monitor lizards are carnivorous, legal to own in California and native to the African grasslands and parts of Asia. Juveniles go for about $100 in pet stores, but they grow.
Back at the shelter, staff found the reptile was well-behaved for a Monitor lizard.
"The last one we had was nasty. But this one doesn't hiss and we were able to walk it around. It was investigating and didn't snap at anyone," Welsh said. "We suspect that it's been someone's pet for a long time, because it's so big. I think they might let it wander around the house. Maybe it sleeps on a bean bag?"
Welsh thinks the scaly pet might have escaped its cage or gotten loose while its owner was away, and he hoped its owner comes to claim it soon.
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