A puppy stolen from a parked vehicle at the Eagle River Walmart early Friday was found Saturday evening and reunited with its owner, hours after a mistaken report that the animal was surrendered in the morning.

Police spokesman MJ Thim said officers got a report at about 5:30 p.m. that Dexter, a 3-month-old Labrador/Rottweiler mix, was dropped off at Anchorage Animal Care and Control by a man who recognized the animal from police reports overnight Friday.

"Due to the mistaken identity situation from earlier this morning, AACC and APD took additional steps to verify this was, in fact, Dexter," Thim wrote. "Once the final step was taken, Dexter was released to the victim."

The earlier inaccurate report Saturday indicated that Dexter was left overnight Friday in an animal drop at Anchorage Animal Care and Control. Police spokesman MJ Thim said the people responsible for taking Dexter had apparently surrendered the dog.

“We got a call a little bit before 9 o’clock (Saturday morning) from an employee at Animal Care and Control that they believed Dexter was dropped off,” Thim said. “One of the animals inside was a dog that matched the description from the Nixle that was sent out.”

Dexter’s owner was called and given the puppy found in the drop, Thim said, but that dog turned out to be a female which was surrendered by someone else. The female puppy has since been returned to Animal Care and Control.

Thim said Saturday afternoon that multiple steps took place before the dog given to Dexter’s owner was released.

“When the officer saw the pictures of Dexter and compared it to the puppy that was in front of him, it looked like him, so he called the victim and the victim verified (that it was Dexter),” Thim said. “The victim comes over and verifies that it’s his dog and goes home.”

Laura Atwood, a spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control, said trained customer-service staff conducts an extensive examination of animals – including a gender check – before reuniting them with owners. In Saturday’s incident, however, the review was conducted by an enforcement officer and APD.

“In this case, it was not handled by the people who are normally confirming, and so this was an error on our part,” Atwood said. “We’re very sorry that happened and obviously very glad that this has been straightened out.”

In light of the mistaken identity, Animal Care and Control will review procedures on releasing animals to owners with all employees.

“We don’t take these things lightly – we know the public is trusting us with their animals and we don’t say, ‘Oh, it only happened one time,’” Atwood said. “It will definitely be gone over with staff.”

Dexter had been inside a Toyota Scion shortly after midnight Friday, when a white woman wearing a white hat and light-colored jacket broke the vehicle’s window and took the puppy while its owner was shopping in the Walmart. Surveillance video showed the woman leaving the scene in a dark green SUV with a tire on the back.

Thim said police pushed the Nixle alert because they felt, with the public's help, they had a better chance of getting the pup back home to its rightful owner. 

"Investigators felt this was an unusual situation (a random smash-and-grab where a dog is stolen) and believed the public could be a tremendous help in solving it quickly," Thim wrote in an email to KTVA Saturday. "Not to discount that we still have a suspect on the loose who could do it again, however, we have received great feedback (positive and negative) about using Nixle for this investigation. It will definitely be taken into consideration moving forward."

Police are still investigating the case and looking for the people who took Dexter, Thim said; the man who dropped the dog off Saturday night is not a suspect. Investigators are hoping to acquire and release imagery of the suspect and SUV from the dognapping as they review the surveillance video.