Two brothers charged with killing three Great Pyrenees sheepdogs in the Ochoco Mountains in August 2012 are scheduled to be sentenced this morning in Crook County District Court.
A county sheriff’s deputy arrested bowhunters Paul Johnson, 67, of Roseburg, and Craig Johnson, 60, of Bend, at their camp near the spot where Peruvian shepherds discovered the dogs’ bodies the previous day, Aug. 27, 2012, according to a Sheriff’s Office account at the time. Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins said the Johnsons agreed to change their not guilty pleas and to other “certain things” regarding sentencing. But, reached in Salem Friday, Vitolins did not have access to the case file for details.
The Johnsons in 2012 pleaded not guilty to three counts each of first-degree animal abuse, a misdemeanor, and first-degree criminal mischief, a felony. Their attorneys, J. Brendon Alexander for Paul Johnson and Jon G. Springer for Craig Johnson, could not be reached Sunday.
The two are scheduled to appear at 8:45 a.m. in Prineville before Presiding Judge Daniel Ahern.
The dogs’ owner, Gordon Clark, of Madras, said he’s grazed sheep on three allotments in the Ochoco National Forest for 20 years. The Great Pyrenees provide security against predators — in this area, that’s coyotes and cougars. His operation has 15-20 Great Pyrenees at any time and another 12-15 border collies that herd the animals.
The Great Pyrenees are working dogs that take up to two years to train, a process that can cost up to several thousand dollars, Clark said. The cost to simply replace the animal is about $1,200. He didn’t necessarily bond with the dogs — in this case, Elvira, Tony and Jackie Chan — although the herders often do, he said.
Peruvian shepherds live with the flocks during the summer months, when as many as 9,000 ewes and lambs, broken into bands of 1,000, are grazing the allotments, Clark said.
“I don’t think we’ve lost a dog,” he said Sunday. “This is such a bizarre thing.”
Clark said he planned to bring a young Great Pyrenees with him when he addresses the court today at the Johnsons’ sentencing. He said the breed has guarded sheep for thousands of years in France and Spain. Sheep and their attendant dogs are common sights in the Ochocos, and unless attacked, the dogs are no threat to people, he said.
Because of the threat from predators, however, the animals provide an instrumental service. “Without the guard dogs, we wouldn’t have sheep,” Clark said.
Deputy Sheriff Bryan Bottoms recovered a .223-caliber rifle he believed the Johnsons used to shoot the dogs, according to a sheriff’s account in October 2012 at the Johnsons’ indictment. The brothers admitted shooting the dogs, thinking the animals were wild, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Clark on Sunday said he learned that the pair shot the first two dogs as a flock of sheep approached their camp on an allotment near the Walton Lake Sno-Park, then walked through or past the flock, fired eight more shots and killed the third dog.
A herder nearby said he heard the shots, but did not see the shooters, Clark said.
“If they know anything about hunting, they should have moved to another location,” Clark said. “Sheep would scare all the game away.”