ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) -- Ferrets are among the most valuable animals for sale at the Edgewood Pet Center in Ashtabula Township.
Because of a history of animals being stolen from the store, the owner built a wooden fence around the pricier pets.
"People can view the animals. When they want to hold something, we will go back and help them with that but, this way, we don't have to worry about them getting stolen and being mistreated,” said owner Doris Lynch.
When a young couple walked into the store Wednesday, the woman claimed she was interested in buying cat food.
But an eagle-eyed employee saw the man jump the fence around the ferret cage. “I knew immediately something was wrong, something had been taken, something had gone wrong there so I went running out the door after him,” said James Strailey.
When Strailey got outside, he saw the couple in their car, trying to back up and leave the parking lot.
Strailey told FOX 8, “I jumped right in front of their car and said, 'you're not going anywhere,' so I went around to the side of the car and saw the ferret pop out of his shirt; I told him, or demanded, I should say, that he give the ferret back and he did."
Strailey was able to write down the license plate number of the suspects' car before they fled, and turned it over to detectives with the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office.
When confronted, the man admitted he had stolen the $170 ferret. He would have gotten away with it, if not for James Strailey. "When somebody steals one of what I feel are my pets, my babies, then I'm going to go after you,” he said.
The crime has convinced the owner of the pet shop that they need an extra layer of protection for their more expensive pets, so they are now putting locks on some of the cages.
They are also hoping that any other thieves hear the story of James Strailey ferreting out the latest pet shoplifter. “He's employee of the month right now,” Doris Lynch said with a laugh. “He's a really good employee anyway, but I give him a big gold star for that."