Video captures ‘risky’ rescue after off-leash dog falls into deep San Diego sinkhole

A sinkhole trapped a golden retriever in San Diego on Tuesday night as the dog was exploring off leash — and posed dangers to the dog’s rescuers as well.

“It was just a very dangerous rescue, even though it went relatively quickly and smoothly,” said Sgt. Laurel Monreal of the San Diego Humane Society.

Rescuers described the dog-saving operation as “very risky” because of the unstable ground around the 20-foot-wide sinkhole, which opened up Tuesday morning in front of an elementary school on Park Village Road, NBC San Diego reports.

The man had been walking his dog, Ruby, near Los Peñasquitos Canyon Trail when she ran up to the sinkhole out of curiosity and tumbled into it, rescuers said in a news release. The dog’s owner wasn’t identified.

Firefighters rescued the dog with the help of humane society officers, who were called in around 11 p.m., rescuers said.

“They were able to lower a ladder into the hole and harness up the dog,” Monreal said. “I just advised them on how to best handle the dog.”

Monreal said she was ready to go down into the sinkhole if the firefighters had any problems with the golden retriever.

“Fortunately, Ruby was a good girl, and they got her out with no problems,” Monreal said.

The dog was then reunited with her owner, rescuers said. Ruby was trapped for “several hours” before the rescue, FOX 5 reports. The dog was not injured.

Though the rescue was successful, it could have been prevented altogether, according to rescuers.

“If the dog had been on leash, this wouldn’t have happened at all,” Monreal said. “Leash laws exist for animal safety and people safety. Even though your dog may not like it, make sure your dog is on leash.”

She said a leash is especially important for dogs right now in the area, after drenching rainstorms have transformed parts of Southern California.

“It’s just so muddy. Areas that are safe may have trees and stuff that can fall down,” Monreal explained. “Just be aware of your surroundings, and keep your dog on leash”

A spokesman for the city said the collapse of a corrugated metal storm drain beneath the road triggered the sinkhole, NBC reports.

“I’m really worried with one sinkhole and I don’t know if we’ll find more sinkholes in the future,” said Sci Nandagopalan, who lives nearby, according to NBC. “Mother nature makes its own call, we just have to be cool.”

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City officials are worried, too: They fear the existing sinkhole could get even wider, and are drafting contingency plans in case they need to close any more of the roadway, FOX 5 reports.

One local described driving over the stretch of road around 8 a.m. Tuesday before it gave way.

“It was just a dip that our car — we felt it and said that’s a new sensation because we ride this all the time,” Leslie Braslawsky said, according to FOX 5. “That was a new sensation.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.