Texas pet grooming salons report rash of break-ins

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A string of break-ins at pet grooming salons over the past few weeks has some local business owners banding together.

KXAN spoke to owners who have shared surveillance videos of at least seven break-ins at their facilities between the end of June and the end of July.

So far, owners have confirmed the following break-ins, all occurring in the overnight hours. All but two have records with Austin Police Department online:

  • June 27: Mod Mutt Salon
  • July 2: Rainbow Paws Pet Salon
  • July 4: As the Fur Flies
  • July 11: Sniff Grooming Studio
  • July 23: Hair O’ the Dog Pet Salon
  • July 26: Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen & Bath- Zilker
  • July 29: Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen & Bath- South Lamar

“It’s sad,” said Eliana Thormann, who owns Mod Mutt Salon, which was broken into on June 27. “It’s not just the cash register that’s taken. It’s the emotional, you know, like how violated you feel.”

“You provide that business just to other people, you know, all the dog lovers, and then someone just take[s] advantage of you,” Thormann said.

She also owns Sniff Grooming Studio, which she said was broken into on July 11.

She said they didn’t have a lot of cash — about $600 total from both locations, but are also out a couple thousand dollars to pay for repairs out-of-pocket, since their deductible would’ve been higher.

“The whole ordeal, you know, rescheduling clients, vacuuming all the glass, you know, shattered on the ground. The dogs can’t walk through it safely,” Thormann said.

She said they hadn’t fully recovered from the pandemic at Sniff, and had decided to slowly shut that location down. But the break-in sped up their timeline.

“We just decided to close the shop with the damage,” Thormann said.

The suspect in her surveillance footage appears to be a man wearing a baseball cap and have arm tattoos.

She said she realized she wasn’t the only one that could have been hit by the same man after she and others started sharing their recordings in a Facebook group for groomers.

This KXAN map shows six of the seven break-ins local business owners have confirmed with us.

The owners of Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen and Bath said someone also broke into two of their locations last week.

“Maybe there’s a belief that since we’re not a big box store, we had less security, etcetera,” said co-owner and CEO Jeffrey Springer. “While we have surveillance, we don’t have the heavy security that would notify the police department immediately — the silent alarms.”

Springer said they’re out several thousands of dollars in pure cash, and a couple thousand more for repairs that aren’t fully covered by insurance.

“There’s the emotional costs, because we have a very tight close family here,” he said. “So, our employees who show up in the morning, they realize that there’s been a robbery, you know, they’re… anxious.”

He said after reaching out to KXAN as well as District Five Councilwoman Ann Kitchen, they finally received an email on Monday assigning a detective to their cases.

In surveillance footage from nearly all stores, the suspect can be seen breaking through the front door by smashing something through the glass door, going straight to the cash register, and walking out with it.

Nancy Rich with As the Fur Flies said a man with the same MO and profile broke into her south location on July 4 just before 5 a.m.

The suspect fidgets with the cash register but Rich said he was unable to open it or remove it, since the register was bolted to the desk.

“We do a very small percentage of sales in cash; almost all is credit cards. There is never cash left on site,” Rich said.

Rich, Thormann, Springer and others worry the burglaries are all connected, based on the what appears to be the same man with the same tattoos, using the same technique, in all videos. Austin Police have not confirmed this connection to KXAN.

Still, the owners said they’re working as a pack to spread awareness among others to stay vigilant and make sure they have security cameras.

“We wanted to step up and elevate this as much as possible because this person is likely going to be doing the same theft, same MO next week and the week after,” Springer said.

Springer said they’ve asked their landlord for more lights in their parking lot, and asked APD to increase patrols along South Lamar.

“We may be switching our policy, potentially to go to a cashless environment and just publicize that so we’re not a target,” he said.

He also said they hope to elevate these cases with APD, saying with all the video evidence, the thinks the suspect or suspects can be caught quickly before striking again.

“When one business is victimized, yeah, we all kind of feel it,” Springer said.

Police response

Almost all owners KXAN spoke with said they filed police reports. KXAN found corresponding records online for all but two incidents through APD’s incident reports database.

Many said APD has been slow to respond — from the time they reported the incident, to being assigned a detective, and getting updates.

“The person was not wearing gloves, and no one came and took fingerprints. I have a screwdriver he used in the break in, and they have not retrieved that either,” Rich told KXAN.

Austin Police told KXAN they wouldn’t be able to comment on these cases on Monday, but in the past, a spokesperson told us the department is routing all property crimes that are not in progress to 311 and ireportaustin.com‘s self-reporting system.

“This is being done due to the higher level of calls being received as well as the low staffing numbers APD patrol is experiencing,” the spokesperson wrote in an email back in June. “The process is done to allow officers to respond to higher priority calls such as assaults.”

The spokesperson added the calls are sent to the appropriate investigative unit, and workable leads are assigned to a detective to follow up.

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