Lizard stolen from Metro East pet store returned with help of social media


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

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

“We discovered that we were short one of these animals on Monday,” said Smallheer. “That camera footage showed the perpetrator taking 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 followers to identify the suspect, who turned the lizard over to police in O’Fallon, Illinois, Wednesday morning.

“Social media works very quickly and effectively, and Tye-Dyed Iguana has an army,” he said. “When you steal from us, you’re stealing from our team of people and their families.” 

He said the reptile is of the Uromastyx species.

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

Smallheer decided not to press charges and said he’s already found someone who wants to purchase the lizard.

“We do have somebody that wants to provide him his forever home, so this individual has been contacted that the lizard is back,” he said. “It appears healthy and after about three or four days to make sure he’s healthy we’ll get him to his forever home.”

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