Search continues for snake shoplifters

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BRADENTON, Fla. - Detectives in Manatee County are still on the hunt for two men and a woman accused of stealing six snakes from the Petland store on 53rd Avenue West.

It happened early Monday evening. Surveillance footage from inside the store captures the crooks stealing the snakes from cages and then placing the reptiles in a couple of hoodies. The snakes stolen are five ball pythons and a 4-ft long boa constrictor, worth a total of around $800.

"They knew exactly what they were doing," said Bradenton Petland Managing Partner Mark Benecke. "It does bother us that we have to be in a position now to extend our security, put locks on the cages and even have someone stand at the door."

Why would anyone want to steal a snake anyway? Year after year, polls like Gallup, indicate fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias among Americans.

"What motivates them, the bottom line is that they can sell them," said Benecke.

You can find snakes for sale on websites like Craigslist. The thieves may even decide to sell the snakes to friends or even another pet shop.

"The big thing for us is the well being of the animals. I think if they are brazen and just come in and take them, I don't know how much compassion or interest there is in making sure the reptiles are looked after the way they should be," said Benecke.

If you have any information on the theft, or the suspects in the surveillance video, please contact Manatee County Crimestoppers at 866-634-TIPS.