Janet Long, owner of Bayou Pets in Destrehan, said in the 22 years the store has been open, pet theft has been among the rarest of events.
That makes the heist that went down recently all the more bizarre — not that it needed the boost.
On July 5, surveillance footage at the store recorded a visitor spending time with a sun conure bird before apparently deciding to take it with her, pulling off the heist by hiding the colorful bird underneath her hair and on her shoulder and leaving the store.
The sun conure is valued at $500. To date, no suspect has been arrested for the crime.
Amy Kelso was working at the store that day and said the woman on the video approached her and asked a few questions about the store’s birds.
“She had a couple questions about how much the big birds (cost),” Kelso said. “But she said she was just looking, so I walked away.”
The woman kept playing with the birds in the area. Kelso said the store leaves the big birds out and available so people can see and talk to them.
Kelso said nobody realized the bird was missing until a few hours later.
“We were really busy that day,” Kelso recalled. “A customer came in and asked to see a cockatiel … a few minutes later I was asked, ‘Amy, did you sell the sun conure?’ I said no … we looked on the floor because sometimes they’ll jump out of the tank and you catch them running around, but nothing. He’s gone.”
Kelso suspected the woman she’d talked to earlier had stolen the bird, and upon checking the surveillance video later, that appeared to be the case.
“Sure enough, going through the footage … she came in with her hair up, she goes off camera and the next time you see her hair’s down and you can see the bird on her back,” she said.
It wasn’t as apparent while facing her, though.
“I felt silly because I watched the woman walk out the door (on the camera),” said Long. “I was looking at her, in the back and on the camera. She was standing at the front door and I’m thinking she needs some help. I got up and she walked out. We have eight cameras, but the screen I was looking into was small, so I didn’t see the bird.”
Added Kelso, “I guess she thought she could get away with it since we were light up front that day. And she has, so far.”
Kelso said that sun conures are very popular due to how colorful and vibrant they are.
“And it’s a handfed bird,” Kelso said. “Those are very sweet. A lot of people are drawn to how snuggly they are, so maybe that played a part (in why the bird was stolen).”
There are other traits of that particular species, though.
“Sun conures are extremely loud,” she said. “This one’s a baby, but the adults will deafen you. Hopefully she knows what she got herself into.”
Long said the most disappointing thing about the incident is that she and her husband, Brian, make great effort for their animals to end up in good situations, noting they’re “very conscious of who we sell our animals to.”
Long said the store cameras have been upgraded to prevent a similar situation from happening, but in this case, the bird is already gone.
“We’ve turned them down before, if we don’t feel they’ll take care of it,” Long said. “We hand-fed that baby for months and now we don’t know if she’s taking care of it, if she sold it or what she did to it. We just don’t know.”
Anyone who can identify the woman or who has information on this incident is asked to contact Det. Jennifer James with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office at (985) 783-1135 or (985) 783-6807.