I-Team: Unwanted pets dumped at Garfield Park Conservatory

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Unwanted pets are being abandoned at a famous West Side tourist destination. The Garfield Park Conservatory is a century-old Chicago treasure that houses thousands of plants inside one of the largest conservatories in the nation.

Humboldt Park resident Meaghan Thomas contacted the I-Team after discovering a surprise on a recent visit to the conservatory.

She took this photo of this large lizard inside the facility - clearly not a part of the normal conservatory exhibits - a lizard that was likely abandoned by a conservatory visitor.

"You may think you're trying to do a good thing and put it in an environment where it will survive but ultimately, you're giving that animal a death sentence," Thomas told the I-Team.

Weeks after her visit, I-Team cameras found a lizard sunning itself by the large pond in the Fern Room and a half dozen turtles living throughout the facility. Since the staff doesn't care for abandoned animals, Thomas is concerned they're likely left to fend for themselves.

"You're putting that animal in jeopardy," said Thomas. "It doesn't seem fair," she continued, "I'm a dog person but lizards have hearts too.

Chicago Park District officials tell the I-Team that the Conservatory "highly discourages the public from disposing of unwanted pets at our facility" writing in a statement:

The Garfield Park Conservatory is a museum that cares for and manages botanical life only, with horticulture experts tasked with caring for hundreds of diverse plant species. The Conservatory does not employ a wildlife biologist or animal care expert on staff, and highly discourages the public from disposing of unwanted pets at our facility. To find an appropriate home for your pet, please contact Animal Care and Control or an appropriate animal care facility for assistance.

Unknown disposal of pets at the Conservatory is a very rare occurrence. In the few cases where the incident occurred, conservatory staff contacted the appropriate animal care experts for assistance.

Illinois-based Friends of Scales rescue says they're aware of the issue at Garfield Park Conservatory and if you have an unwanted pet, you can contact them to relinquish it by emailing: info@friendsofscales.com.
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