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Man arrested for suspected $80,000 dog heist in Florida

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) - A suspected dog burglar who stole a prize-winning French bulldog and fifteen puppies valued at $80,000 has been arrested by police in Florida and the purloined pooches were returned to their owner in Miami.

Police said on Saturday 29-year old Vigil Philip Birch was in custody, charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. The dogs went missing on New Year's Eve.

Birch told police he planned the resell the dogs, which he bought for $2,200 apiece from an unidentified friend who he said stole them. Lawyers for Birch were not immediately available for comment.

The stolen dogs included El Che, named after Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and a winner of an award at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2010, according to owner and Miami-based breeder Marcelo Cicuta.

El Che and puppies as young as 16 days old were recovered about 30 miles north of the Miami home from where they were stolen. Some were found on the street, police said.

"Everything is OK, all the puppies are perfect," Cicuta told Reuters. "I'm very happy… the dogs are happy, Che is very happy."

French bulldogs - the third-most commonly stolen breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club - can fetch up to $2,500 each.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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