TURLOCK -- A Turlock family is desperately searching for what’s not only a family pet but a federally protected animal. The family said their 15-year-old desert tortoise has been missing for days.
Richard Melton has searched low and even lower for a missing tortoise named George. He’s plastered signs throughout his neighborhood and while the posters look like any other lost pet notice, there’s something special about George. Something that sets him apart.
"Definitely a protected species that you’re not allowed to have as a pet. You’re not allowed to breed or sell,” Turlock resident Richard Melton said.
The 15-year-old animal is a desert tortoise. A federally protected species in California.
"George is a California desert tortoise that we were taking care of for a young lady that’s had him since he was an egg,” Melton said.
He said because George was given to the owner as an egg through a learning program, it was the only legal way to have the 9-pound animal as a pet.
"So he was through a learning program, so he was legal that way,” Melton said.
He’s so special, rare even, not many are seen in the state. That’s why Melton believes George’s absence is not a mistake."
"I have a feeling that either somebody saw him and came in,” he said.
Melton has searched his backyard and throughout the neighborhood. George was last seen on Wednesday.
"On Friday I came out and I just had a bad feeling,” Melton told FOX40.
Neighbors have also looked for the beloved pet.
"...and I’ve looked under everything, and it’s not in my yard,” neighbor Ernestine Rojas said.
As for Melton, he hopes someone brings his little buddy back to him. No questions asked, he’s even offering a growing reward.
“I’ll buy you another tortoise in replacement for him, you know. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do to get him back,” Melton pleaded.
Melton also said that he and his housemate are very vigilant about keeping the gates locked throughout the home just in case George gets out.