Riverside animal control officers are showing off an unusual guest, a monitor lizard, while they check out the claim of ownership.
Elmer, the lizard on the loose in Riverside, is back home.
Elmer's owners claimed him Wednesday afternoon at Riverside County Animal Services.
"We're thrilled to get him back," Tom Casarez Sr., 56, told the Press-Enterprise. "He's like my grandson," Casarez said. "We pet him, spend time with him, let him roam our condo. He sits on my lap with his head on my shoulder while I watch TV."
Casarez said he and his three sons bought Elmer more than a year ago at a pet store.
People strolling along Grambling Way, near Massachusetts Avenue, in Riverside Tuesday got the shock of their lives when they found they were sharing the sidewalk with the five foot monitor lizard.
"It was just walking along," according to Riverside County Department of Animal Services Public Information Officer John Welsh. "People were stunned by the size of this thing. It looks like the size of a small alligator."
Department of Animal Services Officer Jenny Seltzer was dispatched to retrieve the lizard.
"I was thinking it would be an itty-bitty lizard," Seltzer said. "I really thought I would be rolling up to discover it was just an oversized garden lizard. This was no garden lizard."
With the assistance of a Riverside police officer, Seltzer snared the lizard with a catch pole and hauled it into her pickup truck.
But the lizard didn't go quietly.
"The reptile really didn't care for that," according to Riverside County Department of Animal Services Public Information Officer John Welsh. "He hissed a little bit at her."
Monitor lizards are legal to own in California. Officials at the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Riverside described Elmer as "very docile."
His family said Elmer escaped when they were cleaning his tank.