WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Who would target a shop filled with cute, cuddly and exotic animals? On Thanksgiving, no less!

Police say the thief, who appeared to have acted alone, seemed familiar with the pet store set-up, went straight to the cash register, and disappeared into the night, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported exclusively on Tuesday.

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The three Niehoff brothers were fixing smashed windows after their family-owned Long Island pet store was broken into over the holiday.

“On Thanksgiving Day, here we are 1 o’clock in the morning,” Thomas Niehoff said.

The doors of B.T.J.’s Jungle Pet Store were locked and the surveillance cameras were on as the animals were settling in for the night. But it wasn’t long before the tortoise and the hare and the parrot and the pig were startled awake by a violent disruption.

A smash-and-grab burglar.


It took the thief 26 seconds to crowbar the cash register.

“He couldn’t open the register, so he thinks he’s got a pot of gold there,” Thomas Niehoff said.

The suspect carried away the entire register, which contained only a few hundred dollars.

Alarms sounded and detectives responded.

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“Detectives and their sniffing dogs, not how you want to spend your holiday,” Thomas said. “They were busy at the hospital, they said. They had their hands full.”

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Police were called away from COVID-19 duties and the pet shop owners were summoned from their families on Thanksgiving night, yet grateful the exotic animals were not harmed.

“We were worried about the animals right away when he heard we were robbed. That was our first concern,” employee Jon Coppola said.

“We got lucky,” Thomas added.

B.T.J.’s pet shop, aquarium, and aviary has been in West Islip since 1969 and there have been some brazen heists in the past, the owner said.

“A year ago, we had a thousand dollar bird stolen from us,” Thomas said.

But never a cash register.

Despite the pandemic, the thief was not wearing a mask.

“I just don’t know what these people are thinking. I’ve got 16 cameras,” Thomas said.

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Police are hoping someone recognizes the crook and calls in any tips.