An iguana swung around by its tail before being thrown at by a man remains in protective custody with police in Ohio as of May 2, awaiting approval from local courts to get the medical care she needs to recover.
The young female iguana, named “Copper” by the police, was brought to the Lake County Humane Society on April 16 after being thrown at a local restaurant in Painesville, Ohio, approximately 30 miles northeast of downtown Cleveland.
Copper was then taken to the Animal Center of Euclid where it was determined that Copper was suffering from a leg fracture, metabolic bone disease, and that she was also missing a portion of her tail.
According to police, the restaurant’s owner, Dustin Amato, had asked a man later identified as Arnold J. Teeter, 49, to leave the restaurant after Teeter allegedly threw a menu at a waitress and became increasingly loud. That’s when Teeter pulled out the iguana.
“Amato attempted to speak with Teeter, who then pulled an iguana from under his sweatshirt and began swinging the animal over his head in a circular motion,” the Painesville Police Department said in a Facebook post.
“Teeter then threw the iguana at Amato, missing the manager and landing on the tile floor, sliding across the floor some length.”
Then, Teeter picked up the iguana and left the restaurant. According to the police post, there is a video of the incident.
While the responding officer was not initially able to locate Teeter, officers were called to another incident outside a YMCA half an hour later.
“Recognizing Teeter from the restaurant video, officers found him walking through traffic on Mentor Avenue, with multiple vehicles having to actively swerve to avoid striking him,” the police said in their Facebook post.
Officers were able to arrest Teeter, and “officers located the approximately 2 foot iguana from under his sweatshirt.”
The police department passed Copper to the Lake Humane Society, who took Copper to a vet where the extent of her injuries were revealed.
The care Copper needs, including orthopaedic surgery, is estimated to cost as much as $1,600, according to the Lake Humane Society‘s donation page for the reptile.
Teeter was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and cruelty to animals.
At his pretrial on April 22, Teeter, appearing by video, plead not guilty to the charges, reports WKYC 3. His bond was reduced from $10,000 to $2,500 and the court ordered that he be monitored by GPS, according to WKYC 3, and only allowed to leave for medical, mental health, and legal purposes. Teeter has also been banned from having any animals.
As of May 2, Copper was under the protective custody of the Painesville Police Department and the Humane Society was waiting for permission from Teeter to perform the surgery Copper needs.
A Lake Humane Society Official told WKYC on April 22 that the iguana had not yet had the surgery because she was still owned by Teeter and her condition was not considered life-threatening.
Iguanas Falling Out of Trees
The green iguana is considered an invasive species in South Florida, where they eat through gardens and dig burrows. According to the Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI), green iguanas became an invasive species largely due to the pet industry.
The green iguana is one of the most popular reptile pets in the United States, according to National Geographic, which also says that most captive iguanas die within their first year, with many others turned loose or given up to rescue groups.
The iguanas can grow up to 6-feet long and it is technically illegal to release captured animals.
However, the invasive reptile is intolerant to the cold.
In early January 2018, iguanas reportedly fell from trees in South Florida after temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. CBS reported at the time that the cold-blooded reptiles would feel sluggish at 50 degrees fahrenheit, and temperatures below that would be too cold for them to move.
It was not the first time such a thing had happened. CBS reported that, in 2010, a two-week long cold spell killed off many iguanas and other invasive species used to South Florida’s subtropical climate.