PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Two brothers -- one a retired Oregon State Police trooper -- were sentenced Monday following pleas of 'no contest' to animal abuse charges for fatally shooting three Great Pyrenees sheep guard dogs last year in the Ochoco National Forest.
"You've both been convicted of animal abuse in the first degree," said Crook County Circuit Judge Daniel Ahern. "The court is going to order that you both be put on 24 months bench probation."
Paul Johnson, 67, of Roseburg, and Bend resident and retired OSP trooper Craig Johnson, 60 changed their pleas from not guilty to no contest.
In addition to probation, the judge handed down a year-long ban from hunting, $500 fines, 80 hours community service and a forfeit of a firearm.
"If the circumstances were the same, I would have shot additional dogs," the younger brother told the judge and courtroom during the hearing.
Craig defended the brothers' actions, saying there was no sign of sheep where they were hunting near Walden Lake. He said he thought wild dogs were chasing elk and acting vicious toward himself and his brother.
He said the brothers killed three dogs with six shots.
"Another dog (came at us) immediately, growling and barking and aggressively coming toward us," Craig said, adding that he felt they were in danger of being attacked.
But Madras rancher Gordon Clark's recollection of his dogs' temperaments is very different.
"Never had a problem," Clark said to the judge. "If the guard dogs were a problem the forest service would have thrown us out a long time ago."
He said he's been using dogs to guard sheep in the Ochocos for 20 years. He has a sheep allotment with the forest service to run his sheep on the land.
Clark said the sheep tracks and posted signs made it obvious the sheep and dogs were in the area.
"If they didn't know they were there, they must have been pretty deaf and dumb," Clark said.
Clark said the sentence can't bring his dogs back, but he's pleased with the outcome.
"The excuses they gave kind of fit along with the deed they did," Clark told NewsChannel 21. "And I think the judge was pretty fair to them. Someone shot some dogs we put a lot of time and training, and worked for me very hard."
A victim still grieving for his dogs, and two brothers who say they were only trying to protecting themselves.
"I'm very apologetic and sorry this happened," Paul said.
In exchange for the plea deal, the two brothers were dropped from charges of felony first-degree criminal mischief.