Loose dog kills horse inside pen in Foothills
A horse in his own pen fell victim to a fatal dog mauling Monday afternoon.
The quarter horse, named Spud, was euthanized about three hours after a neighbor's two pit bulls got free of their yard, squeezed through the thick bars of his enclosure and attacked.
Charles Knowlton heard frantic whinnying outside his Foothills home at about 4:15 p.m., and when he got out to the corral to investigate he found a gruesome and eerie scene: a pit bull, looming over the horse as it struggled on the ground, calmly “eating” it as another pit bull sat nearby.
“He was on the ground, trying to get up,” he said of the horse.
Even though one dog was biting the horse, the dogs didn't seem otherwise agitated and he managed to get the dog to stop by yelling and shaking a rake — he never did hit it, although he said he'd have shot it if he had a gun on him. The offending animal also grabbed Knowlton's own dog, a small mixed breed, on its way out, throwing it to the ground before trotting off with its companion. (That dog, only about 13 pounds, survived with a tweaked back.)
At first, Spud was up and around, breathing hard and stunned. But he could barely walk, and his injuries were extensive: gaping puncture and slash-like wounds to his belly, neck, shoulder, hip and face. Two veterinarians examined Spud and concluded that his wounds would have required a lengthy and expensive convalescence.
The horse was one of the 15 or so on the Knowlton property, a roughly 2-acre spread among other residential horse properties at Shadow Avenue and Spur Drive. Some are their animals, while others are boarders. All are kept in 6-foot-tall enclosures. Spud belonged to a friend, who had shared him for the last 10 years.
“These two dogs hunted this horse in the corral,” said Carolyn Knowlton, who rushed home when her husband called to tell her of the attack.
She said her horses are kept as safely as they can be, and she's concerned that the dogs could come back to attack another one of their animals — or a child.
Spud, who was 29 years old, had a good nature and expressive eyes, she said. He'd been a cutting horse in his youth, but more recently had been one of the horses the Knowltons kept for area children to use in 4-H. He was a horse they trusted to give beginning riders a taste of the trails, and he helped children who had a hard time affording 4-H activities the chance to win ribbons at shows.
“Those kind of horses are really hard to find,” Carolyn Knowlton said.
The pit bulls ended up back at their home, with a neighbor who lives about 200 to 300 yards away. Charles Knowlton followed the dogs into the street and the owner came by and put them in his truck.
Carolyn Knowlton said a Yuma County sheriff's deputy and animal control officer responded —- and she said that though they were concerned, they appeared to find themselves limited. To make a criminal case out of the matter, the Knowltons would have to prove their neighbor intentionally set the dogs on the horse, she said.
A brief Yuma County Sheriff's Office report says the owner was cited by animal control for having dogs at large, but he was allowed to keep possession of the animals.
Carolyn Knowlton said she doesn't know the dogs' owner — he could be a nice person, and from what her husband said he wasn't rude or aggressive during the encounter — but she thinks he should be held accountable.
“If my dog did that, my dog would already be buried,” she said — even if it was a beloved pet.
“You do the responsible thing.”
Animal control assumed investigation of the case.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.