New pit bull attack on horse in canyon

Horse injured, dog owner remains at scene this time
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Another off-leash pit bull has attacked and injured a horse being ridden near Auburn – the second in less than three weeks. The unprovoked attack occurred at the North Fork of the American River on Sunday afternoon, with a 13-year-old Arabian fending the dog off and then entering the swift-flowing current to escape further injury. Rider Sandra Goodwin of Applegate said Tuesday that the dog appeared to be a different one than a pit bull that attacked a horse on a trail near Driver’s Flat, about 4 miles east of Auburn, on April 3. Sunday’s attack took place after Goodwin and her husband, Harrison Goodwin, had ridden their horses across the North Fork after a four-hour training run in preparation for this summer’s Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance ride. “We saw the pit bull running at us from about 150 yards away,” Sandra Goodwin said. “It was coming at us like a bullet.” The owner followed, using voice commands in a futile attempt to make it stop. The dog jumped at the face of her husband’s horse but it turned its head before the pit bull could latch on with its jaws, Sandra Goodwin said. Harrison Goodwin – an Auburn attorney – had dismounted and gave the dog a strong kick, lifting it backward. But the dog wasn’t done. It snapped at the horse’s legs while the 900-pound Arabian kicked back to protect itself. Then the dog turned on Sandra Goodwin’s Halleys Comet, jumping up and biting into the stomach area. “It was vicious, unstoppable,” she said. “There was nothing that could have stopped that dog but a gun. If the dog had turned on us, we would have had no defense.” Shaking the dog off, Halleys Comet took off and circled the sandy beach area a couple of times with his attacker in pursuit. The bloodied horse landed some solid blows with its hooves as the dog attempted to bite its flanks. At one point it stomped on the pit bull. The owner attempted to catch the dog but wasn’t able to stop the continuing assault. Halley’s Comet ran into the North Fork waters and found a sandbar where it was able to stand and steady itself in three feet of frigid water. The pit bull tried to swim out but ended up being carried downstream by the current and onto the shoreline on the eastern side. Rafters on an excursion with Sacramento’s W.E.T. River Trips also witnessed the attack and they were able to bring the dog under control by tying a rope to its collar and wrapping the rope around a tree. The horse was poneyed to the Applegate side of the river by Harrison Goodwin and made it back to its trailer on the canyon rim, about 2 miles up. Placer County Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control members were waiting at the top after being contacted by phone. Goodwin said the pit bull owner was cooperative and apologetic with both him and law enforcement. The April 3 attack took place near Foresthill Road. The pit bull – larger and a different color than the once involved in Sunday’s incident – also jumped at the horse’s face and was able to latch on before being thrown into a tree. The dog chased the horse down a trail and then halted after reaching Foresthill Road. The horse was caught about 3 miles away, after running along the road to near the Foresthill Bridge. In that attack, the owner was also present. But he ignored the rider’s request for a ride and took off on his own, collecting his dog and disappearing. The search for both the dog and the owner in that incident is continuing with a total of $4,000 in reward money being offered. Halley’s Comet was taken to an Auburn veterinarian, where her wound took 20 stitches to close. The attack took place on land that is within the jurisdiction of county law enforcement rather than the state Parks Department. Sandra Goodwin, a psychologist and director of the California Institute for Mental Health, said that she understood from law enforcement that they would identify the dog as potentially dangerous and cite the owner for having the dog off leash and not in control. “It’s like one strike and it only applies in Placer County,” Goodwin said. “It’s really scary to think about if it had been a kid rather than a horse.” While the wound is expected to heal within two weeks, Sandra Goodwin said she’s still uncertain about the psychological scars her horse will have to deal with. The Goodwins are continuing to plan for their attempt to gain a Tevis Cup finisher’s buckle on July 19-20. “I love dogs, we have dogs,” Goodwin said. “I’ve let him out with our dogs to see how he’ll react and he’s been fine. But I don’t know what it will be like when he sees a strange dog coming up the trail.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at