Belfast Telegraph

Watch: CCTV footage as parrot stolen from Ballymena pet shop

Beloved pet parrot Barney is among exotic animals taken during raid on Co Antrim shop

By Victoria Leonard

The owners of a Ballymena pet shop have been left heartbroken after thieves raided their business, stealing a host of exotic animals including their beloved African Grey parrot Barney.

Snakes, chameleons, cockatiels and other pets were among the creatures taken from Ladysmith Pet Shop after thieves broke in through the roof between 6.30pm on Sunday and 8.55am on Monday.

Branding those responsible "scumbags," shop owner Marion McAuley (64), who has had Barney as a pet for the last 10 years, said the animals would "deteriorate quickly" without the specialist care they need to survive.

"Every morning, I walk into the shop and call out: 'Hello Barney' and he would say it back to me, but when I walked in and saw we had been broken into and so many animals were missing I was just in shock," she said.

"There was a hole in the corrugated iron roof, a fish tank had been smashed where they jumped down and two tortoises were lying on their backs on the floor where they had been dropped - I thought they were dead until I picked them up.

"The cages where the most expensive birds were kept had been opened and they were gone.

"They seemed to know exactly what they were looking for - they came in as if they had a shopping list and targeted the most expensive animals in the shop. I think they were stolen to order."

In addition to Barney, the thieves made off with a two-foot long baby yellow tree python worth around £400, a pair of chameleons, seven tortoises, a hand-reared conure parakeet, two cockatiels, two karakikis and two parrotlets.

Less valuable animals such as finches, budgies and bearded dragons were not targeted in the heist.

The till was also forced open and money stolen.

Marion McAuley of Ladysmith Pet Shop after thieves stole Barney the parrot
Marion McAuley of Ladysmith Pet Shop after thieves stole Barney the parrot
Stolen reptiles
Stolen reptiles
Barney the parrot
A scene from the CCTV footage capturing the thieves during the burglary

In total, Marion estimates that the damage to the shop and the loss of the animals will cost her business around £4,500.

"I'm just disgusted that someone could do this and I'm worried for the welfare of the animals," said Marion, who has run the pet shop with her husband Ronnie for the past 13 years.

"We have had Barney since he was a very young bird - African Greys can sell for about £700, but he is priceless to us.

"He's a very intelligent bird and would pick things up easily, he even shouts for our dog Molly and calls on the cat.

"He has a great personality and people come into the shop just to see him, he's the star of the show, the shop mascot.

"Our grandkids and other children in the town love coming in to see him.

"It's a wrench now that he has been taken - he was the first thing you heard every morning and he would chitter and get on, you miss the noise.

"The people who took the animals just want the money, but I want to make sure they are okay."

Marion describes looking after the animals as a "full-time job", and says she fears that without the specialist care they need they will perish.

"The animals will be suffering - Barney has a liver complaint and needs daily medicine, while the other animals are exotic and need proper attention," she explained. "African Greys bond with their owners and he will be stressed out, he won't know what's going on. Any bird could take a heart attack.

"The python has a special diet of mice, and the tortoises need ultraviolet light or they will go into hibernation.

"Chameleons need certain care, they eat crickets and prefer to walk on branches. Many of the animals are tropical and need heat.

"Without the care they need, their condition will deteriorate very quickly - if they aren't found by the end of the week I would be seriously worried. It could be fatal for them."

Police are appealing for anyone who may have been in Ballymena's Ladysmith Terrace area between 6.30pm on Sunday and 8.55am on Monday and noticed any suspicious activity, or who has been offered any of these animals for sale in suspicious circumstances, to contact them on 101, quoting reference number 213 04/12/17.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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