Lizard stolen from Metro East pet store returned to owner

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FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill. — A lizard stolen from an exotic pet store over the weekend has been returned to the store owner, thanks to the Metro East community and social media.

Matt Smallheer, the owner of the Tye-Dyed Iguana store in Fairview Heights, said his staff noticed the lizard missing Jan. 2 during their daily inventory. They checked the security camera footage and saw something suspicious.

“We found out we were missing one of these animals on Monday,” Smallheer said. “This camera footage showed the assailant pulling the lizard out and blatantly stuffing it in his pocket.”

Smallheer posted the surveillance video on social media. It didn’t take long for his supporters to identify the suspect, who turned the lizard over to police in O’Fallon, Illinois on Wednesday morning.

“Social media works very quickly and efficiently, and Tye-Dyed Iguana has an army,” he said. “When you rob us, you rob our team of people and their families.”

He said the reptile is of the Uromastyx species.

“In this case, it’s a captive-bred European mastic, which makes it a higher dollar and also has the prettiest coloring.”

Smallheer decided not to press charges and said he had already found someone who wanted to buy the lizard.

“We have someone who wants to provide her forever home, so this person has been contacted to get the lizard back,” he said. “He looks healthy and after about three or four days to make sure he’s healthy, we’ll bring him to his forever home.”

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