AUSTIN (KXAN) — A spate of break-ins at pet grooming salons in recent weeks has caused some local business owners to band together.
KXAN spoke with landlords who shared surveillance videos of at least seven break-ins at their facilities between late June and late July.
The owners have confirmed the following burglaries so far, all of which occurred overnight. All but two have online records with the Austin Police Department:
- June 27: Mod Mutt Fair
- July 2: Rainbow Paws Pet Lounge
- July 4: Fur Flight
- 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, owner of salon Mod Mutt, which was robbed 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 only provide this business to other people, you know, all the dog lovers, and then someone just takes[s] advantage of you,” Thormann said.
She also owns Sniff Grooming Studio, which she says was robbed on July 11.
She said they didn’t have much money – about $600 in total from both places, but they also had a few thousand dollars to pay for the repairs out of pocket because their deductible would have been more. high.
“All this ordeal, you know, rescheduling clients, vacuuming all the glass, you know, broken on the floor. Dogs cannot safely cross it,” Thormann said.
She said they hadn’t fully recovered from the pandemic at Sniff and decided to slowly close that place. But the burglary sped up their timeline.
“We just decided to close the store with the damage,” Thormann said.
The suspect in his surveillance footage appears to be a man wearing a baseball cap and arm tattoos.
She said she realized she wasn’t the only one who had been hit by the same man after she and others started sharing their recordings in a Facebook group for groomers.
The owners of Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen and Bath said someone also broke into two of their establishments last week.
“Maybe there’s a belief that since we’re not a big-box store, we had less security, etc.,” said co-owner and CEO Jeffrey Springer. “While we have surveillance, we don’t have the heavy-duty security that would immediately notify the police department – the silent alarms.”
Springer said they are missing several thousand dollars in pure silver, and a few thousand more for repairs that aren’t fully covered by insurance.
“There are the emotional costs, because we have very close family here,” he said. “So our employees who show up in the morning, they realize there’s been a robbery, you know, they’re…anxious.”
He said after contacting KXAN as well as District Five Councilwoman Ann Kitchen, they finally received an email Monday assigning a detective to their cases.
In surveillance footage from almost every store, the suspect can be seen walking through the front door, 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 or remove it because the cash register was locked to the desk.
“We make a very small percentage of sales in cash; almost everything is credit cards. There is never cash on site,” Rich said.
Rich, Thormann, Springer and others fear the burglaries are all connected, based on what appears to be the same man with the same tattoos, using the same technique, in all the videos. Austin police have not confirmed this connection to KXAN.
Still, the owners said they work as a pack to educate others to stay alert and ensure they have security cameras.
“We wanted to step up and elevate that as much as possible because this person is likely going to commit the same theft, same MO next week and the week after,” Springer said.
Springer said they asked their landlord for more lights in their parking lot and asked APD to increase patrols along South Lamar.
“We can change our policy, potentially to go to a cashless environment and just publicize it so we’re not a target,” he said.
He also said they hope to elevate these cases with APD, saying that with all the video evidence they believe the suspect(s) can be caught quickly before they strike again.
“When a company is a victim, yes, we all feel it,” Springer said.
Almost every owner KXAN spoke to said they had filed police reports. KXAN found matching records online for all but two incidents via APD incident report database.
Many said the APD was slow to respond — from the time they reported the incident, to dispatching a detective and getting updates.
“The person was not wearing gloves and no one came to take his fingerprints. I have a screwdriver that he used in the break-in, and they didn’t get it back either,” Rich told KXAN.
Austin police told KXAN they wouldn’t be able to comment on those cases on Monday, but in the past, a spokesperson told us the department is routing all property crimes not in run to 311 and ireportaustin.comself-declaration system.
“This is being done due to the higher number of calls received as well as the low manning the APD patrol is experiencing,” the spokesperson wrote in an email in June. “The process is done to allow officers to respond to higher priority calls such as assaults.”
The spokesperson added that calls are sent to the appropriate investigative unit and actionable leads are assigned to a detective to follow up.