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Asian monitor lizard, now too big for Anderson couple’s comfort, goes to rescue center

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — An Anderson couple has a history of rescuing animals: two cats, a dog and, until Friday morning, two rescued reptiles.

But, one of the reptiles became too much to handle.  

Jennifer Pennington and her husband have a soft spot for wayward animals. They have a lizard in the front room, and her two cats have the run of the yard. The back bedroom of their house is reserved for an Asian monitor. Pennington calls the reptile Lady, and the lizard has a foul temper when disturbed.

“When you buy them as a baby they are not going to grow up to what you think they are going to be,” Pennington said.

Lady was found in a parking lot under a dumpster and eventually given to Pennington and her husband by a local pet store. The couple have owned reptiles in the past, and the care and feeding of a lizard requires a special person. The talons, or claws, are razor-sharp. A strike from Lady’s tail can bring a grown man to the ground.

This particular Asian monitor should be from 5- 6 feet in length by now, but her growth is restricted by her enclosure. However, due some personal issues, Pennington and her husband are giving up Lady.  

“I just can’t physically. I mean the doctors told me I just can’t,” Pennington said.

Finding someone who would take mildly foul-tempered and slightly dangerous reptile was a challenge.

Meet Andy McKee, the founder of Mountain State Reptile Rescue in West Virginia. McKee is former science teacher. He drove from West Virginia to rescue Lady.

“I’m going to get it out first and see what the temperament is and go forward from there,” McKee said.

It took more than a few minutes for Lady to warm up to McKee. The reptile drew first blood, causing McKee to say that Lady is in good health.

After some anxious reptile and human bonding time, Lady was taken outside to get ready for her trip to West Virginia. “We will work with her, and I think, once she is in a larger facility and a larger enclosure, I think she will calm down and she will start associating human contact with bringing food,” McKee said.

McKee and the Mountain State Reptile Rescue do not charge to pick up animals. Many of his rescues are adopted to customers who have been vetted.  

McKee says he will evaluate the animal back in West Virginia, and it may become part of a permanent educational display.