Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Why You Should Not Leave Your Iguana Unsecured Outside

©1997 Melissa Kaplan


As many of you know, I take in and find homes for many iguanas every year. I am sometimes taken to task for my bluntness, assertiveness, and pronouncements. Yes, well...

In August 1996, I got a call from the local humane society. They just got in an iguana - could I take it? I explained that I couldn't take in any more at this time, and gave them information on temporary housing and my iguana care page address to get detailed information on care, etc.

Yesterday, they called again - could I possibly come down and take a look at the enclosure they built for it? They are going to keep the iguana (no one has called on it) and their humane officer said it was too small. [N.B. This cracked me up as this is the same humane society whose state humane officer answered "yes" when I asked, in exasperation at his yet again not doing anything about a hellhole of a pet store, did every reptile and amphibian in the store have to be dead before he would consider it a "significant violation of the penal code"? - like he'd notice if a cage was too small???? He doesn't think feces, dead bodies, and rotting food in unheated enclosures is a "significant violation" of the penal code!]

So, I went down there. The cube-like enclosure the iguana was in was too narrow and short. I asked if I could see the iguana - oh, yes, they replied. As I opened the door, they asked me about his tail (about 1" of regrowth). In looking at it and explaining its odd appearance, I noted that certain other features of the tail-scars and bumpy growths-looked familiar. I took the iguana out and looked at his face, seeing what I knew I would see: lopsided nostrils due to old rostral injuries; creased upper lip on the right side.

"This is Friskie," I said. "I adopted him out a year ago to a woman named [M.C.]"

I went home and called the this woman at her work number. She works for her mother's dog grooming establishment. The person who answered the phone happens to be an acquaintance of mine, another herp society member. I told her that I had been to the pound, saw Friskie, etc. The owner wasn't there, but her mother was. Seems the owner had a baby a week and a half before and, yes, you guessed it, probably won't want the iguana back. The person I was talking to implied that the iguana had been gone for a couple of weeks. I left her the name and number of the woman at the humane society to call, and asked that M.C. call them.

Now, when I adopt out animals, I try, as much as possible without being impossibly rude and intrusive, to ensure that the person is making a life long commitment and that the animal will be properly provided for should any major life changes come about, like marriage, birth, divorce, etc. The adoptor is expressly told to contact me if they can't keep it and so I can take it back and try to find another home for it. I also go over what to do if the animal escapes - who to call, about calling me to find out the best ways to search for it, etc.

I called the woman at the humane society today to see if the owner had called. She did. It seems that, despite my advising her not to (and as I frequently advise iguana owners when I hear they are doing this), the owner used to put Friskie outside on nice days. "He never ran away before," she said. Like, doh! it only takes one time to lose them forever. (Like the iguana who, wandering into field near here late one afternoon, climbed into a nice warm tractor engine compartment where it was still sleeping the next morning when the farmer came and started up the engine...the bits and pieces of that iguana that went flying all over that field helped to fertilize the crop that year...not to speak of traumatizing the farmer who never could find out whose iguana it was.)

Friskie had taken off on April 19 and hadn't been seen until he was found over two miles from his home in mid August. The owner never called me, never called the humane society or animal control (we have two different agencies that have jurisdiction over different parts of the city and county), never called anyone. Just shrugged, sold off the iguana's equipment within a couple of weeks of his disappearance (equipment which, of course, could have been donated to me or other rescue groups in the area, or to the humane society, or to a school, but most people don't bother to think of things like that...), apparently never giving further thought to an animal that she was once so enamored of.

So, please (double-stacking the soap boxes):

  • Don't put your iguana outside for sun without a suitable (I won't go into all of the iguanas stolen, or who are maliciously or "Jeeze, man, it was just a joke!" released from enclosures without locking mechanisms);

  • Do contact the animal control/humane agencies in your area if your reptile gets away. Encourage others to do the same.

  • Do report found reptiles - heaven only knows: some owners actually do care that their iguana is missing.

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