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Oregon sheriff: Decision to shoot pet pony was a mistake

MOLALLA, Ore. - Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts apologized Thursday after one of his deputies shot and killed a family's pony last month.

"We made a mistake," Roberts said in a statement. "Other actions could and should have been taken."

At about 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, a deputy was called to an area along Highway 213 on a report that a horse may have been hit by a car. The deputy reported that he saw a "very old" horse that "couldn't stand" even though it was trying to do so.

The deputy said he couldn't determine where the horse came from and could not locate its owner.

In his report, the deputy said "it appeared (the horse) was nursing one front leg and a rear leg."

The deputy said he called the humane society, a local veterinarian, and a supervisor to seek advice in determining what he should do. The deputy said after describing his observations to his supervisor, his supervisor agreed with him that the horse needed to be put down.

The deputy then killed the horse with his shotgun.

That horse, a 30-year-old American Miniature Horse named Gir, belonged to Crista Fitzgerald.

After learning that her horse had been put down without her permission, Fitzgerald said there was no good reason to kill her pony and that her vet determined there was nothing wrong with it.

Fitzgerald wanted a second opinion and sent Gir's body to Oregon State University's veterinary lab on Feb. 25. The lab determined the pony had no broken bones and was in excellent condition despite having arthritis.

In his statement of apology, Roberts said, "We offer our sincere condolences to the Fitzgerald family. "We have approached the family about exploring ways to make this as right as we can. And we are examining our own procedures when dealing with this sort of situation in the future."

But Adam Fitzgerald, Crista's husband, told KATU News Thursday afternoon that they haven't heard from anyone at the sheriff's office since Monday night, when an investigator came to their home to pick up the OSU report. He said the sheriff's office has talked to them about making things right, but Adam Fitzgerald said he feels like it is an attempt to just silence them.

Fitzgerald said the family plans to sue the sheriff's office, citing discrepancies in the police report. He said the bullet gauge used to shoot the pony was different than the gun the deputy said he used.

Sheriff Roberts' statement:

I grew up with horses and livestock in Clackamas County, and understand their profound value. We offer our sincere condolences to the Fitzgerald family. As detailed in the report, 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. And we are examining our own procedures when dealing with this sort of situation in the future.

Craig Roberts
Clackamas County Sheriff

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