Keep Your Dogs Away From My Lizards

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It's a known fact that people in the Bay Area love their pets. But usually, the term "pets" refers to a dog or cat, even a rabbit or bird.

    It's a known fact that people in the Bay Area love their pets. But usually, the term "pets" refers to a dog or cat, even a rabbit or bird.

    But in the Marin County city of San Rafael, a grassy neighborhood park is dealing with a much different kind of pet problem.

    City police have made a few visits to Gerstle Park in the North Bay community over the past few weeks because of encounters between off-leash dogs a pair of leashed monitor lizards. Humane Society officials have also been keeping tabs on the inter-species encounters at the park.

    Our friends at the Marin IJ tell us Sierra Bekele, most commonly known in the area as "the lizard lady," called the cops earlier this month after dogs running free in the park hassled her 3-year-old lizard, Yuri. The reptile was on a leash; the dogs were not, she says. Bekele said a large poodle even bit one of her lizards in the tail area, although there was no damage to his thick skin.

    "He freaked out and spun around and tried to bite at the dog and (the dog owners) tried to complain that he's vicious." Bekele told the paper. "I don't mind if they're there, as long as they have their dogs on leash."

    A sign at the entrance of the park clearly states: "Dogs must be on leash; other animals not permitted in the park."

    City Park Superintendent John Tune says all pets are welcome at the park as long as they're  under proper control. But the leash laws are hard to enforce because officers just don't have time to monitor the park.

    Dog owners recognize the lax enforcement and have used the park for years to run and socialize their pets. But a walk in the park with a couple of leashed lizards presents a new challenge.

    At least one dog owner who frequents the park wonders why Bekele doesn't just find another part of the park to walk her lizards. But the "lizard lady" says her home is close to the park and she has no plans to stop walking her scaly family members there.