The search continues for a missing hunting dog in Virginia.
Rocky Deel and his 11-year-old son Charlie set out on a bear hunt with their six hunting dogs in Speedwell during a youth hunting tournament on October 14. But at the end of the day, one dog was missing: Ringo, a blue English coonhound.
Little did they know, three women in a maroon minivan with Flordia plates had taken their beloved dog. As they searched the area, the family got a call from a fellow hunter and family friend, letting them know he'd seen the bear hunting dog with three women by a minivan.
"By the time he got a hold of us, and we get off the mountain, it was showing that the dog was still there," said Deel to WSLS. "We go there, we can't find him, and we end up finding the tracking collar thrown in the ditch."
The women told the hunter they would call the family once they got back into cell phone service. The hunter believed them and drove away. However, the Deels never received a phone call from the women, leading the family to believe they stole the dog to protect him from a life of being"forced" to hunt.
But hunting is just what these dogs were bred to do. "They love doing it," Deel told the outlet. Bear hunting is considered controversial, even though it is perfectly legal in Virginia and other states. Vermont hunters have had issues in the past with anti-hunting activists. However, Deel has never had any issues in their community.
"Around here, everybody hunts. It's a hunting community," Deel says. "And for the most part, you don't have any trouble. We've never had any issues with anyone. But [the other hunter] did say [the women] were going on about how they think hunting is cruel and that we make these dogs hunt. So I don't know if they thought I was being cruel to the dog, but these dogs are bred for this. You don't make them hunt."
No matter how you feel about bear hunting, the law is pretty clear on stealing people's dogs. In Virginia, the theft of a dog is a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It's not the only crime the thieves could be charged with. Removing a GPS collar is a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail or a $2,500 fine; interfering with a hunt is a Class 3 misdemeanor, with another $500 fine.
On top of the legal implications, the Ringo's owners are reeling from the disappearance of their beloved pet. Deel said his son Charlie is heartbroken. "He loved the dogs. He would help me do the feeding, but now he's telling me he can't help me feed without Ringo being there. It just didn't feel right."
The family is doing everything they can to find their missing four-legged family member. The Deels filed a police report, have spoken to countless rescues, and have even created a Facebook page dedicated to finding Ringo. Fellow searchers have even taken to TikTok to help the family.
The Deels are also offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the pup's return. They have even said they will not press charges if their pup is returned.
"I've been out every day from daylight to dark searching for him," Deel said. "That's what I'm actually doing right now. I'm just trying to find the van or hoping they would have let him out somewhere. But with the reward, I'm hoping somebody will talk sooner or later."
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