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Stolen Shih Tzu puppy returned to owner, suspect arrested

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A three-and-a-half month old Shih Tzu puppy that was stolen from a local pet store last month was returned this week, the same day a suspect was arrested.

Lawrenceville Police arrested Laquinta La Chae Cooper, 35, the same day an arrest warrant was filed for theft by shoplifting, a felony. Gwinnett jail records show Cooper was booked on Monday and released on Tuesday after she posted an $11,200 bond.

Cooper allegedly stole the male, black and white puppy on Feb. 6 when she walked out of Puppies Galore in Lawrenceville after a store employee went to help another customer, according to a police report.

Lawrenceville Police Capt. Greg Vaughn said an investigator acted on a tip that led to the suspect.

Store owner Darlene Patterson told the Daily Post that Cooper had previously visited the store, wanted the dog for her 6-year-old daughter and was prepared to put a deposit down on the dog, but instead left with it without paying.

The police report said a woman and man left in a tan or brown four-door passenger car onto Sugarloaf Parkway.

Patterson said the dog, which costs $1,299, was dehydrated and "kind of lethargic-acting" when it was returned, but its health has improved, especially after it was reunited with its sister.

"When they saw each other, it's like it was Christmas," Patterson said.