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Dog exposes dangerous well, potentially saving child's life

After crews in Redwood County rescued Gannicus from an unsealed well, MDH is warning homeowners about the hidden danger.
Credit: Redwood County Sheriff's Office, via Facebook

REDWOOD COUNTY, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is sending a warning to homeowners about unsealed wells, following the misadventures of a springer spaniel in Redwood County

On Feb. 16, Heather Neid let her two dogs out. When only the smaller dog returned, Neid started to worry about Gannicus, the family's springer spaniel. She was worried he had been hit by a car and was unable to come home, but followed the sound of his barking and found Gannicus had fallen into a well hole that was nearly 20 inches wide and 30 feet deep. 

Neid called for help and Redwood County Sheriff Jason Jacobson and the Morgan Fire Department were quick to arrive. Emergency crews also summoned Robert Nielsen, a district hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Well Management Program, to let him know about the abandoned well. 

Sheriff Jacobson initially told Nielsen that he was not optimistic about getting Gannicus out of the well. 

Credit: Redwood County Sheriff's Department, via Facebook

Luckily, the rescue squad was not willing to give up. According to a release from MDH crews dropped a rope down the hole, hoping the pup would be ready for a game of tug-of-war. Sure enough, Gannicus grabbed on and they were able to pull him to safety. 

The rescue of a dog in need could be the end of the story, but health officials wanted to call public attention to the importance of making sure any open or abandoned wells are sealed. 

In a call with the dog's owner following the incident, Nielsen learned Neid has two children, a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old. 

“This incident could have been much, much worse,” Nielsen said. “We can all be thankful that it was Gannicus that ‘discovered’ the well, and that he was able to be rescued quickly.”

Even a small well can still pose a danger. The department of health cited the story of Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old child who was rescued from a well in Midland, Texas, after 56 hours in 1987. That well was just 8 inches in diameter.

To keep you, your animals and others safe from unsealed wells, here are a few simple rules and steps for ensuring wells are safe:

  • Unused, unsealed wells must be sealed by a licensed well contractor, per state law
  • Property owners SHOULD NOT attempt to fill an unused well themselves – it MUST be done by a licensed well contractor
  • A well owner is always given the option to place an unused well back in service, but that doesn't happen if the well’s condition has deteriorated beyond repair.
  • Minnesota law requires the seller of property to provide information to the buyer and the state (MDH) about the location and status of all wells on the property.
  • Status is divided into three categories: In-use, not-in-use, and sealed by a licensed well contractor.
  • Questions about unused wells can be directed to MDH Well Management staff or a local well contractor. The Well Management main phone number is: 651-201-4600 or 800-383-9808

Neid said her partner covered the well for now and they are in the process of getting it sealed and covered permanently. You can find more information about sealing a well at the MDH website here

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