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Two puppies taken from Ed's Pet World

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Two 8-week-old puppies were stolen during a break-in shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday at Ed's Pet World in Mitchell.

Ed Anderson, the store's owner, said the thief -- who he calls the "puppy bandit" -- broke into the store through a back door not often used by employees and immediately headed for the cash register, which contained less than $50 in change, all of which was taken. Based on surveillance footage, the suspect appears to be male, Anderson said.

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The two puppies, miniature poodles valued at $599 each, were taken right out of their enclosures during the break-in, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, Anderson said. A wire dog crate was also stolen.

Anderson said if this had to happen, he would have preferred the thief to also take a bag of dog food.

"I would have felt more comfortable knowing the puppies were going to be cared for," he said.

One of the store's employees discovered the break-in at shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday after noticing pieces of plastic on the floor near the cash register, which was smashed with a hammer during the incident, Anderson said.

The puppies had only just arrived at the pet store Monday afternoon, Anderson said. He worries the puppies won't be cared for properly, as all puppies go through an adjustment period after arriving at the store and employees typically give them special supplements and carefully watch the puppies' diets.

"When they give so little thought about the care of the animals, I worry what they are going to do with them," Anderson said, referring to the thief.

The suspect did not wear a mask during the break-in and looked directly at the security cameras several times, Anderson said.

Anderson is offering a $150 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the return of the two puppies.

This isn't the first time puppies have been stolen from Ed's Pet World. Twice in 2012, puppies were stolen from a display inside the store during business hours. In both cases, the puppies were later recovered.

Anderson said he is now researching additional security measures to protect his store.

"You should be able to lock your doors and feel safe," he said. "This is frustrating for me as a business owner to feel I have to have some around-the-clock protection to keep my store safe."

Anderson said it has been more difficult in recent years to find puppies to sell and noted there is a shortage of puppies nationwide. He worries that could lead to future thefts.

"I think there is a market out there for puppies," he said. "They can take these and turn them over and get some fast cash for them."

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