A Florida pet store owner fed up with an alleged serial pet snatcher’s antics stopped a man in his tracks as he tried to get away with two snakes that he had stuffed in his pants.
Animal House Pet Center owner Steven Silk said he realized that expensive animals were going missing from the shop after the same customer would come in to browse.
“He had been in twice before, he was a very smooth guy,” he told InsideEdition.com. “He would talk to a lot of customers while he was in and he always had an employee help him… at some point he would go off on his own. After he’d leave we’d realize we had something missing.”
The man made off with an albino snake in one instance, returning within nine months to the St. Petersburg shop to snag a lizard and another snake, Silk said. The animals taken were worth hundreds of dollars, he said.
“We knew what his M.O. was at that point. We put his picture behind the counter so we would recognize him,” he said.
So when the man returned for a third heist on Monday, the store was ready for him, Silk said.
“We helped him, took animals out for him,” Silk said. “I stayed in the office with the (security) camera and waited … and a couple of minutes later, he was able to open up a lock.”
Silk watched as the man shoved two small pythons in his pants pocket and tried to leave.
“That’s when I confronted him. I already gave everyone in the store a heads up,” he said.
Chaos erupted as employees tried to stop the man, who had nowhere to go as the store’s door was locked in anticipation of an escape attempt.
“I kept asking him to stop,” Silk said. “Normally when this sort of thing happens, when I confront someone, they’re like ‘oh alright.’ Probably 90 percent of the time I don’t even call the cops. In this guy’s case, it wasn’t the case at all.
“He really tried to put up a fight. He was a handful,” the store owner said.
The man allegedly tossed the snakes aside in his attempt to get out of the store, Silk said. They found one during the scuffle and recovered the other critter the next morning.
“He was in the same area hiding behind a fish tank,” Silk said.
Employees and a customer who happened to be in the military managed to hold him down and zip tie him until police arrived at the store, Silk said.
“(The customer) said to us, ‘Normally I would’ve walked right on by but it looked like you guys needed a hand,’” Silk said with a laugh.
Travis Treder, 27, was arrested and charged with petit theft and resisting a merchant, police said. He was out on bail later that day. InsideEdition.com has reached out to Treder for comment.
Silk believed Treder may have been selling the expensive animals on Craigslist.
“What actually hurts me more than anything … Is that his parents are having to watch this,” Silk said. “I can only imagine the kid was a good kid at one point. I hope he gets help.”