Park Rangers are now investigating an incident captured on photograph showing two off-leash pet dogs harassing one of Assateague Island's wild ponies.
Assateague Island is, without a doubt, a state treasure. In addition to the wonderful beaches, it is also one of the few spots in the country where humans can openly interact with wild ponies on the water. What many people don't understand, however, is that these wild ponies have the right of way. If you decide to put down a beach blanket, don't be surprised if a horse comes right up and steals it from you.
People not understanding that they are guests in the horses' environment, and not the other way around, tends to lead to trouble.
A photograph emerged in early November showing two pet dogs harassing an Assateague pony named Susi Sole. The photographs show the dogs getting up in the pony's business, ultimately forcing Susi Sole to kick her back legs and run away from the animals.
According to park rules and regulations, all pets brought to the beach are supposed to remain on a six foot leash at all times. The two dogs in these photographs were both wearing collars, but no leash.
Pets are not allowed in any of the back country campsites, nature trails, on the lifeguard-protected beach, north of the state park to the Ocean City Inlet, or on any part of the Virginia portion of the island (even if they're in cars). There are also other portions of the State Park where pets are forbidden.
The photos were originally posted to social media by a bystander that just happened to witness the incident. He or she did not want to go on the record about what they saw, but did say that they were in contact with park rangers and that there would be an investigation.
While it might seem trivial for park rangers to open an investigation into this incident, they really don't have a choice. The delicate balance on Assateague Island between the wild horses and human visitors has always been fragile. Earlier this year
, one of the ponies was struck and killed by a driver passing through the state park. In addition to simply not wanting the horses to be bothered by someone's poorly trained dogs, there is also always the fear that nipping dogs harassing one of the horses could scare them into running into oncoming traffic or some other danger.
Since this is now an active investigation, anyone who may have witnessed this incident, or other situations like it, is encouraged to contact the Assateague Island National Seashore at (410) 641-1441.
Assateague Island is one of the best tourist spots in the area. It is up to all of us to preserve it, and that means obeying the rules and leaving the horses alone.
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