Our View: Responsible pet ownership needed always

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The love of our pets is strong in the foothills.
Yet, the responsibility for those pets seems to fall to the wayside at times and sometimes with dramatic consequences.
Recently, a man rode on a horse into one of the busiest shopping centers in Auburn. He tied his horse up on a small grass median in the parking lot of the Bel Air shopping center located off Highway 49 and went into nearby businesses to run his errands.
In the meantime, a pitbull was inside a car with the windows rolled down. The dog spotted the horse and jumped out of the car. It was unclear to witnesses at the scene the cause of what happened next, but the dog and horse were reportedly fighting and became entangled in the middle of the lot. The struggle ended when the horse kicked the dog away, the dog’s owners rushed out of a local shop, took the pitbull and drove away.
This situation should not have happened in such a public place where there are multiple factors that could startle both animals. While pet owners may know their animal and will swear by their loyalty and sweet - “they’d never hurt a thing” - demeanor, it’s irresponsible to bring animals – especially large ones that can cause damage – into the public domain without better restraints and precautions.
A busy, popular shopping center lot is no place for a horse that can be spooked or attacked. Horses are large animals and an owner can easily lose control of one when it’s simply tied up to a tree. A shopping center is not set up to offer proper facilities for such a large animal. What could’ve happened if the horse had ran away from the dog in a parking lot full of cars and shoppers?
In turn, it’s not fair to leave a dog alone in a car in the first place. Rolling down the windows is necessary to provide air, but the windows shouldn’t have been low enough for the pitbull to jump out. Regardless of how well-mannered that dog may be at home, it acted on animal instinct and jumped out and went toward a distraction – in this case it was the horse.
There’s also the risk of severe injury to both animals. The horse and dog both could have been more seriously hurt. The horse suffered a wound to its ankle. It’s unknown what happened to the dog.
We understand the importance of horses to their owners and the therapy they can provide. We are also fortunate to live in a beautiful region where there are scenic trails marked for and appropriate for horse riding.
Ultimately, the unfortunate incident showed that nature can and will take over despite our best thoughts about the animals we care for.
It’s up to pet owners to acknowledge and accept that fact and take responsibility. Keep dogs on leashes when out, don’t bring horses into crowded shopping centers and it’s better to leave your pet at home than inside a car even for the shortest of errands. If you must take your pet along for the ride, then designate someone to stay with them so they are not alone.
When it comes to our animals and ourselves, common sense and a realization that we should think of how to protect ourselves and others will go a long way.