Belfast Telegraph

Welcome home, Barney ... pet shop owner's beloved parrot returned after animal heist

By Victoria Leonard

A Co Antrim pet shop owner is celebrating after being reunited with her beloved pet parrot Barney, who she feared had been lost forever in a burglary.

Earlier this week, the African Grey was among a number of exotic animals to be stolen in the late-night Ballymena pet shop heist.

A snake, 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.

Shop owner Marion McAuley (64), who has owned Barney for 10 years, said she had feared for the animals' welfare due to the high level of specialist care they require.

The PSNI safely returned Barney, seven tortoises, a python and two lizards after they were found during a search of a house in Ballymena's Lanntara area yesterday morning.

One man has been arrested on suspicion of burglary and handling stolen goods, and police enquiries are continuing.

"I'm over the moon," a delighted Marion said. "The police rang us and asked if we had cages ready, so I knew then that they had found them.

"When they came back, Barney was the first in the door - he flapped his wings and started to dance. I think he knew he was home.

"People started coming in as soon as they heard he was back-he is being stroked and cuddled, and I think he will play on the attention a bit. The other animals seem fine, although it might take a few days for the stress to show.

"They are a bit hungry and cold, so we got them into their cages and tanks to make sure they are warm and fed."

Marion says she is relieved that the "stress and worry" of the last few days are behind her, and now intends to focus on nursing the animals back to full strength.

"Two of the birds, a cockatiel and a conure, didn't come home so we assume they died," she continued.

"But we were so afraid we wouldn't get any of the animals back.

"News of the theft was shared far and wide on social media, and we would like to thank everyone who helped get the animals home."

PSNI Chief Inspector Simon Ball said: "I would like to thank the community for the information provided, through our local social media accounts and directly to the Neighbourhood Policing Team, which has brought this incident to a successful conclusion.

"One man has been arrested on suspicion of burglary and handling stolen goods and our enquiries will continue in an attempt to secure convictions for all of those involved in this crime.

"I would appeal to anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information that could assist with the investigation, please contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 213 04/12/17.

Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous."

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