LARGO, FL (WFLA) — She’s only nine-weeks-old, cute as a button and so small, she’ll fit in your hand. The Yorkie puppy is two-pounds of precious and will melt your heart with one look, making the story all the more heartbreaking.
The palm-sized puppy was stolen in an instant, ripped from the companionship of her sibling, a male puppy from the same litter. It happened on Tuesday at the popular Largo pet store, All About Puppies, located at 7190 Ulmerton Road.
“I went into pure panic mode,” said kennel manager Bridget Royal. “I couldn’t believe someone would take her. This never happens here. We searched the entire store and all the cages. I was in a panic and so scared for this puppy.”
The store is filled with surveillance cameras in nearly every corner, including one that captures the images of patrons as they walk out the front door. In fact, there’s even a bold sign posted that reads, “Smile you’re on camera.”
Management is very much in favor of socialization for the various breeds at the Largo store, encouraging customers to interact with the puppies, giving the cute canines love, affection and extra attention.
Tuesday was a busy day with many patrons spending time with pups in the Largo store. There was one customer, however, that Bridget says she noticed right away. She would later tell Largo Police that the man seemed nervous, “fidgety” and suspicious. Bridget told WFLA that the guy went right to the cage where the tiny female Yorkie was.
The pup had been there for less than an hour, awaiting the arrival of her new best friend. Bridget explained that a woman had already called and inquired excitedly about the new Yorkie puppies. Sadly, that woman would never meet her new buddy.
Bridget says the mystery man picked up the Yorke and began “pacing” around the store, as his actions were being recorded on surveillance cameras. On video, the man is seen holding the puppy and looking around the room.
Then, Bridget says the guy took the Yorkie to a part of the store not directly monitored by cameras. That was the last time the puppy was seen.
“As soon as I realized what happened, I called the police right away,” Bridget told WFLA. “The man rushed out of the store, holding his sweater. As soon as I knew the puppy was gone, I went straight to surveillance and began looking. I kind of had an idea of who the guy was, the time he came in and when the puppy arrived. I know it was him. You can see him on video adjusting a sweater.”
Largo detectives would like to speak with the man seen on surveillance and point out that he is not a suspect.
Store management told police officers that the guy was, in fact, the last person holding the puppy, and that it’s documented on camera. The mystery man is simply a person of interest, interacting with the puppy before she went missing.
“I am so scared for this Yorkie,” said Bridget. “She is so young and so tiny. She has to eat every three to four hours [to make sure her sugar content is balanced]. If not, she could die from hypoglycemia. We consider these puppies our own and take extra special care of them. I don’t know what could happen to her. I’m so worried. I have no idea what this guy is going to do with her or if he’s even going to take care of her.”
The good news is that the Yorkie puppy is micro-chipped, which could possibly help detectives in locating her. However, she is worth $1,600, and Bridget says she is afraid that the man on video has intentions to sell the puppy, without knowing anything about a potential buyer.
Largo Police are hoping that someone recognizes the man from the video and will ask him to contact detectives so that he can assist in possibly solving this case.
“We know that people love dogs,” said a Largo police lieutenant. “We would like to find this puppy and solve this case.”