When the Fitzgeralds’ beloved, 30-year-old pony, an American Miniature Horse, wandered out of its barn back on February 18, he made it just 150 yards down the road into a neighbor’s yard when the animal decided to lie down and rest for a while. When the neighbor called police, a sheriff’s deputy showed up and tried to get the pony named Gir to stand up.
But Gir, described as a stubborn little horse by the Fitzgeralds, didn’t feel like getting up. So the officer shot Gir twice, killing the family pet.
Now the family wants to know what really happened, because they don’t accept the Clackamas County sheriff’s explanation for why Gir was killed in what they say was nothing but an act of cruelty — both to the horse and to the Fitzgeralds, to whom Gir was a cherished member of the family. Especially for their youngest little girl.
“My youngest is a shy little girl with social issues,” dad Adam Fitzgerald told the Portland Tribune newspaper. “But if you ask her about her pony, she will open right up. So it helped her with issues like that.”
According to the sheriff’s department version, when the deputy found Gir, he believed the horse had been struck by a car and had “been in distress for hours.” So he took it upon himself to euthanize the animal, which “is something we usually do,” said sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Nate Thompson.
But the Fitzgerald’s don’t buy it. When mom Crista Fitzgerald saw Gir lying in the neighbor’s yard she thought the cute little horse was just napping. But when she leaned down to pet the horse, she saw that he was lying dead in his own blood.
So they sent Gir’s body to Oregon State University’s veterinary department where an autopsy was performed. The autopsy said that Gir was in perfect health, except for a case of arthritis — not unsual for a 30-year-old animal — that the family managed with pain medication.
The Fitzgeralds say that Gir did not stand up for the deputy most likely because he hadn’t received his pain meds that morning and was aching from the 150 yard stroll.
The autopsy showed no broken bones, except from the gunshot wounds.
The sheriff’s department said that the deputy called the Oregon Humane Society before shooting the horse, but the OHS said it never received such a call. The deputy did speak to a local vet, who offered to handle the euthanization. But the deputy told the vet not to bother. He’d do it himself.
“If he had the pony’s best interests in mind he would have taken the time to find how to have done it properly, and not have let my pony bleed out in my neighbor’s front yard,” Adam Fitzgerald told KOIN News.
The Oregon Humane Society is now conducting its own investigation into the death of the beloved pony shot by a police officer, an the Fitzgeralds say they are seeking a lawyer’s advice about what to do next.
UPDATE: After a brief investigation, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts concluded that the shooting of Gir was a “a mistake.” He issued an apology to the Fitzgerald family.
“I grew up with horses and livestock in Clackamas County, and understand their profound value,” Roberts said in the statement. “A judgment call was made in the field to humanely euthanize the animal; ultimately, other actions could and should have been taken. We made a mistake. We have approached the family about exploring ways to make this as right as we can.”
But Adam Fitzgerald said that a lieutenant from the sheriff’s office asked him how much money the horse was worth on the open market, a question he found offensive.
“Gir wasn’t worth much on the horse market because of his age and arthritis,” he said. “But what he has done for my daughters and their friends, you can’t put a dollar amount on it.”
[Image: KBOI TV]