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Veterinarian recounts practice break-in
What one veterinarian learned after his practice was robbed.
Lacey, Wash. — When the security company called Michael Widener, DVM, in the early morning of July 20 and alerted him to an alarm at his Farmhouse Veterinary Hospital in Lacey, Wash., Widener dismissed the alarm and assumed it was the usual suspects—his bird patients that set off the motion sensors a few times each year.
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He was in for quite a surprise, however, when he arrived to meet with an emergency client to find that the clinic had been broken into and the cash box stolen. An air-conditioning unit had been pushed out of an exam room window and motion sensors near the reception area had triggered the alarm. No animals were harmed and no pharmaceuticals or other items were stolen.
"I was petrified," Widener told DVM Newsmagazine, adding that there has been a recent increase in burglaries and home invasions in the clinic's neighborhood.
Few clues were left behind, with the exception of a shoeprint outside the entry window. Widener did say, however, that he believes the person responsible had pushed a motion sensor off-track in the back of the facility and is suspected of coming into the clinic later on the day of the burglary. Office workers and clients reported a person who came in, asking odd questions and acting suspiciously. The same person was seen riding a bicycle back and forth outside the clinic a few days later. Widener was able to snap a photo and is hopeful the police will be able to identify him as a "person of interest" in the case.
Since the burglary, Widener has beefed up security, tripling the number of motion sensors in the building, and adding a locked gate, more security lights and additional devices on all the windows. He also plans to install a camera system and exterior devices around the perimeter of the clinic.
His message: Don't get complacent.
"For 15 years, I always felt safe in my community. I think we tend to let our guard down with the motion sensors, and we have to think twice about that. You need to take precautions to secure your building."
Widener says clients of his small-animal practice have been extremely supportive. Some have even contributed to the reward he is offering. Widener was advised by security personnel not to divulge the amount being offered.
"My clients have really come through for me," he says. "They're doing what they can to get the word out and hopefully help catch the person responsible."