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Police find pet lizards feeding on the corpse of their owner

SHARE Police find pet lizards feeding on the corpse of their owner

DOVER, Del. — Several flesh-eating pet lizards were found feasting on the corpse of their owner in his apartment, police said.

Police were called to Ronald Huff's apartment in Newark, Del., on Wednesday after a relative became worried because Huff failed to show up for work, investigators said.

Officers found Huff's body on the floor, with his pet Nile monitor lizards feeding on his flesh. The state medical examiner is investigating the cause of death.

Huff, 42, had last been seen Sunday, New Castle County police said.

Workers with the Delaware Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recovered seven lizards, the largest measuring 6 feet long and weighing 25 pounds.

"They're alive and well," said SPCA director John Caldwell. He added that one of the reptiles recovered was acting aggressively, "actually going toward you, mouth open."

Caldwell said the lizards have small but very sharp teeth and muscular, whiplike tails that can seriously injure a person. In the wild, they eat eggs, birds and other animals, he said.

"In captivity, we feed them raw chicken and liver. You can also feed them hard-boiled eggs," he said.

The SPCA will try to place the lizards with zoos or educational groups, Caldwell said. Barring that, they will be euthanized. The lizards are considered exotic pets in Delaware and cannot be acquired without a permit.

State veterinarian Dr. H.W. Towers said the department stopped issuing such permits for New Castle County residents in 1997 after the county passed an ordinance to stop the proliferation of exotic pets.

Caldwell said he was told that Huff was granted an exotic pet permit several years ago. Towers said he didn't know, however, if Huff had permits for all the lizards.

"If somebody had come for seven monitor lizards, somebody would have said something to me," Towers said.