When Wabash moved from Washington Aveue to to its new location on N. Shepherd, it seemed like all was finally right with the world after the city permitting process dragged the move out for months.
Now, area criminals have made life miserable for owner Betty Heacker.
On Friday, April 7, several suspects broke into the beloved neighborhood feed store, stealing dozens of the store’s livestock — including rabbits and pigeons – valued at around $1,000 in total. And Friday was not the first incident.
“We’ve been burglarized three times in the last seven or eight weeks, and the same thing happens each time,” Heacker said. “The first time they jumped the fence, and took all of our bunnies and doves; the second time we locked up our doors, and they jumped the fence in another spot, forced the doors open and took all of the bunnies and pigeons.”
In response, the longtime owner and founder implemented some extra heavy-duty security measures to keep the criminals out — but the thieves continued their theft spree, each of which has left Wabash short of anywhere from $600-$800 in inventory.
“This last time (Friday night), the thieves cut through the fence,” she said. “We had double-locked our doors this time, but they just cut through the fences around our cages, so we’re going to have to rebuild them.”
“We’ve checked with other feed stores who work with this type of livestock, but none of this is showing,” she added “I was pretty sure this is going to some sort of flea market.”
Unfortunately, an occurrence such as this is one that plays itself out repeatedly in places such as Los Angeles – where according to an ABC news report in 2013, authorities made away with 22 rabbits, 10 birds and 40 baby turtles after raiding an illegal corner street vendor — and even right here in Houston.
“Thieves target animals just like they do any other ‘property’ if they can turn a quick buck. You have to be vigilant all the time,” said Monica Schmidt with the Houston Human Society. “Whether they’re stealing it to potentially sell it online or they have bad intentions, it’s something that can snowball out of control quickly, and unfortunately it’s the animal that suffers in the end.”
From things such as neglect to not providing proper veterinary care or access to food, water and shelter and more, a plethora of potential detriments to an animal’s wellbeing exist regardless of the perpetrator’s initial intentions.
“Unfortunately, with Houston being so large, we see all types of cases, and the best advice we can give people is to be vigilant,” Schmidt said. “As a business owner, they just need to look at what they can best do to secure their property and keep these people out.”
In efforts to stem the tide, Heacker has already jumped on doing so. Early last week, Wabash received its permit to build on an addition to the store for an animal enclosure, and it will be about eight weeks before animals can be transferred to the spot.
“Once they’re inside the enclosure, I don’t think we’re going to have this problem anymore,” Heacker said.
For now, though, Heacker has been forced to coop her beautiful animals up inside and put them into stock tanks, and her anger was undeniable. In that vein, she implored the community to keep their eyes peeled and help bring the animals back home.
“If people are going to cut a heavy-duty chain link fence and basically destroy our property, there’s not a great way to stop them right now,” she said. “I can’t say what I would like to see happen to these guys online but if you see these babies on Craig’s List or at a flea market please let us know.”