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L.A. County deputies arrest man in the thefts of purebred puppies

November 28, 2007|Francisco Vara-Orta | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies arrested a 45-year-old man Tuesday for allegedly breaking into a La Mirada pet shop twice and stealing more than $30,000 worth of purebred puppies.

Surveillance video and a partial license plate number from a witness led investigators to the home of Walter Franklin Steward, who lives within a mile of the Puppy Love pet store, said Sheriff's Det. Marcus Sierra.

Of the 26 puppies stolen, only two were recovered from the suspect's residence. The rest were believed to have been sold and are probably still alive, Sierra said.

On Tuesday, four days after the second break-in, owner Paul Ro said Steward had been in the store before.

"I recognized the suspect as someone who came in and asked a bunch of questions about the puppies before the first break-in," he said. "But I didn't know him at all."

Ro said he's grateful that a suspect had been arrested and still hopes the other stolen puppies will be found.

"I didn't realize how much the news and people would care about our case," Ro said. "But people love puppies."

On Nov. 7, security cameras recorded someone breaking into the shop and shoving 16 puppies into a black trash bag.

On Friday, Ro told authorities that his shop had been broken into again while a strip mall security guard was on a break.

Ro said some of his friends who are dog breeders have helped replenish his supply of puppies for his busiest season of the year -- the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Authorities are asking people who bought puppies from Steward to contact the sheriff's Norwalk Station at (562) 863-8711.

"The puppies are considered stolen property, so we are hoping that people will turn them in," Sierra said. "Despite what happened, there are still a lot of good people out there that will do the right thing, even if it hurts."

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francisco.varaorta@latimes.com

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