Search under way for puppy stolen at pet adoption event in Lafayette

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An adoption event has turned into a search for a stolen puppy, after animal care workers said a woman made off with a Chihuahua mix in Lafayette on Sunday.

"It is  almost unheard of for something like this to happen," said Rachel Sklar with Pet Food Express. "The type of person who would steal a puppy is probably not the type of person who should be in charge of taking care of an animal."  

The puppy named Iris was last seen in the arms of an unknown woman at the Pet Food Express on Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette.

The nonprofit animal rescue group Jelly's Place was holding an adoption event at the store when organizers said a woman left the store with the animal sometime between 3 to 4 p.m. 

"She came in through this door. But when she took the dog, she took it from here and went this way with it," said Julie Bainbridge, founder of Jelly's Place. 

Bainbridge says the woman asked about the puppy

"I mentioned to her that if she rented out, she would need something from the landlord stating that it was okay for her to have the dog," said Bainbridge.  

Bainbridge said she couldn't help the woman right away because she was tending to other  people who had already been  pre-approved for adoptions. "I turned around to talk to her and she was gone. I looked in the pin and Iris wasn't there," Bainbridge said, adding the woman and the puppy disappeared in a span of six to eight minutes.

Searchers released a surveillance photo of the suspect. She looks to be in her 20s with dark hair and a fair complexion. She has a faded tattoo on he right hand and a nose ring.

Iris is described as being about 20 years old, with a nose ring and a tattoo on her right hand.

Workers with Jelly's Place described Iris as a very friendly and sweet puppy. "...we are committed to finding Iris and getting her back to Jelly's Place so she can find a safe forever home," the group said on its Facebook page. 

Pet Food Express is offering a $2,500 reward for the dog's safe return. On its Facebook page, Jelly's Place said it is offering a separate reward for $350 to get Iris back safely.

The pet care chain said that as part of its commitment to animal welfare, the company works closely with rescue and shelter groups. "Jelly's Place is one of those organizations doing great work for homeless pets," Pet Food Express said, "and we are committed to finding Iris and getting her back to Jelly's Place so she can find a safe forever home."

Anyone with information about Iris's whereabouts is asked to contact the Lafayette Police Dept. at  925-283-3680 or Jelly's Place at 510-621-3493.

KTVU's Amber Lee contributed to this reward.