On his way to the annual Woofstock dog show in Vallejo, California, professional dog trainer Tony Carter stopped in Redding for a bite to eat.
When he emerged from In-N-Out Burger on Wednesday, his van carrying 15 rat terriers, golden Labs, Rottweilers and other show dogs was missing, Redding police reported on Facebook.
The van, still containing the dogs, was found Thursday in south Redding, according to The Redding Record-Searchlight. The dogs could be heard barking inside the locked vehicle, police told the publication.
"We ordered at 1:19, the van was gone by 1:23," Carter, who lives in Washington, earlier told the Record-Searchlight about the theft. "It was gone. It was literally gone that fast."
Carter told the publication he’d left the van unlocked with the engine and air conditioning running for the dogs, which were carried in crates in the back.
"Stupid me, because, obviously, I thought, 'It's busy, it's the middle of the day,' " Carter said, adding he had frequently stopped at the same In-N-Out Burger outlet on previous trips.
The Redding Police Department had posted to Facebook on Wednesday seeking information on the theft.
Police later updated the post with photos of two men being sought as suspects in the theft. They asked anyone with information to call 530-225-4200.
Carter had posted to Facebook earlier Thursday to offer a $30,000 reward, raised from $8,000 and $12,000, for the safe return of the van and dogs.
“PLEASE I am begging you,” he wrote in a plea to the thieves. “Go to a safe place unload the dogs and kennels and call in an anonymous tip and location. Please take the van and all the equipment, but please please I'm begging you don't hurt our dogs!!”
Lynda Leffel, who owns one of the missing show dogs, told the Record-Searchlight she was frantic with worry.
"I'm devastated,” she told the publication. “Who on earth would do this? This is a puppy I raised myself."