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Evacuated Katrina pet stolen

Police have suspect in theft of New Orleans dog from humane society shelter

A pit bull terrier mix that toughed out days without food and raging floods in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath in New Orleans was dognapped Saturday from the Southern Oregon Humane Society.

But police may have a short leash on the thief as he apparently left his name in the Humane Society's guest book.

was one of three dogs found in abandoned buildings in the French Quarter and delivered to Medford for rehabilitation.

The stress of the hurricane and the long trip to Southern Oregon had taken their toll on . When he arrived at SOHS he was underweight and shivering, SOHS officials said.

His rehabilitation was going well and he was on his way to a normal healthy life when a man who expressed interest in adopting him apparently stole the dog from a pen outside the shelter, said Bill Templeman, SOHS executive director.

— He was finally coming out of his shell, Templeman said. He always loved people.

Police identified the suspect as Thomas John Miller, 30, of Medford. Miller allegedly arrived at the shelter at around 11:30 a.m. inquiring about adopting a pit bull. He soon left and returned, letting himself in through the shelter's front gate at around 1:30 p.m. He asked to see once again under the observation of an SOHS volunteer.

Miller allegedly asked the volunteer a question, prompting her to leave him alone with the dog to get the information.

Miller then snatched up and escaped the area in an unknown car, Medford police Lt. Mike Moran said.

Police identified Miller through the shelter's guest sign-in book, which he signed during his morning visit, Templeman said.

SOHS staff were devastated by the loss of , Templeman said. He worries that the dog could suffer a terrible set-back in his recovery if his captor does not provide a healthy environment.

We may have to start all over with him when he gets back, Templeman said. Which we'll be happy to do.

was brought to Medford Sept. 30 after spending time in a temporary shelter set up at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La. It was at this shelter where was named.

Police spoke with residents at Miller's last known address; they said Miller had abandoned a black-and-white pit bull at the location in September. Because is considered a companion animal, Miller faces a charge of first-degree theft if convicted of stealing the dog, Moran said.

Templeman said that this was only the second animal theft he's seen in his eight years at the shelter.

We become really attached to our animals, he said. Particularly with the Katrina dogs we feel really terrible if something happens. It's the unknown that's the worst part.

is described as black with white markings, between one and two years old. At the time of his abduction, he was wearing a red and white collar with SOHS tags along with a dark training harness.

SOHS is offering a &

36;250 reward for information leading to 's safe return. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Medford police at 541-4784.

Evacuated Katrina pet stolen "cconrad@mailtribune.com.