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Woman Who Abandoned Alligator At O’Hare Charged With Animal Cruelty

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This alligator was captured by authorities at O'Hare.

This alligator was captured by authorities at O’Hare.

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The woman who owned an alligator that caused a bit of a stir at O’Hare International Airport in November has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty, for abandoning the reptile at the airport.

Alexis Prokopchuk, 29, of Oakbrook Terrace, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct, and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Her pet alligator, measuring about two feet long, was found wandering around O’Hare on Nov. 1.

An airport security officer spotted the reptile crawling around Terminal 3.

“I was out there, and a passenger had pointed out that there was an alligator up under here,” Tineka Walker of Universal Security said in November. “I looked, I said, ‘What?’”

Sure enough, there was, so she called for help. City workers caught the alligator using a broom and dustpan.

Photos posted on Twitter and Instagram showed the same alligator taking a ride on a CTA Blue Line train to O’Hare shortly before it was found wandering the terminal. The CTA tracked the alligator’s owner down from surveillance images of her boarding the train at the Pulaski station with the alligator in her hand.

Officials said the alligator appeared malnourished, and would need about six months of treatment and rehab, because it apparently had not been properly fed, and its growth had been stunted. After rehab, it will likely be given to a reptile park.

Prokopchuk’s bail was set at $5,000 on Wednesday, and she is due back in court on Jan. 30 at the branch courthouse at Grand and Central.

An official with the Chicago Herpetological Society — which eventually took custody of the alligator — said it was very fortunate it didn’t bite someone.

“What if a little kid grabbed this, thinking it was a toy? That could do a nasty job,” he said.

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