On Feb. 5, the Wasco County Board of Commissioners heard a case concerning two dogs that were considered a public nuisance and had been detained after they were found attacking a sheep belonging to a local livestock owner.
During the hearing, the evidence surrounding the case was presented to the commissioners and, while Chair Scott Hege was unable to weigh in on the issue due to a recent injury, it was up to the two-man board to decide what would happen next.
Christina Pareira, who lives at 3380 Sandlin Road, less than a mile from where her dogs were found gnawing on the leg of one of Ray Vergori’s sheep on Dec. 23, 2013, said that this was the first time something like this had ever happened.
“This was the first time they had ever gotten out. They’d never attacked another animal before.”
Since Pareira began renting the property in August, she had been keeping the dogs in a large enclosed area about 300 yards from her house, with fencing about 6 feet high. During the first snow of the season, Pareira said she’d decided to move the dogs to a completely different enclosure with fences about 4 feet in height, located closer to the house.
Elaine Gaither, who owns property directly across from where Vergori’s free-ranging sheep habitually graze, said she’s lived there for about 19 years and, over the past three or four months, has been helping with the herd.
When asked to describe what prompted her to dial 911 on Dec. 23, she said she was alerted to a commotion outside by one of her own dogs’ barking.
“I went outside and at first I didn’t see anything, but then I noticed that there was something going on right at the property line,” Gaither said. “Two dogs, one white one brown, were attacking a sheep who’s horn had somehow gotten stuck in the fence.”
“I immediately ran up there, waving my arms at them from the other side of the fence, trying to get them to stop, but nothing seemed to work.”
Before running back to the house to report the incident to local law enforcement, she said she’d noticed that the sheep’s back leg was injured and that the white dog’s muzzle appeared to be covered in blood.
According to current law, the maximum fine for an owner whose animal is responsible for injuring livestock is $1,000.
“This being a first-time offense, speaking for myself, I’m pretty satisfied with the solution of returning the dogs to the original enclosure from which they have never escaped in order to prevent this from happening again,” Rod Runyon, acting chair, said. “But some things need to be done before the dogs can be returned.”
When asked what she was willing to do to ensure that another attack never happened again, Pareira said, “I just want everyone to know they’re really good dogs and that they don’t deserve to be put down. I’ll do whatever it takes so they don’t get any sheep or any livestock ever again. I’ll do whatever I can to keep them.”
Pareira was required to pay the minimum fine of $250 to the county, with the addition of $50 as compensation to the Vergoris.
“Getting the dogs chipped is also mandatory,” Runyon said. “The improvements you’ll need to make before bringing the dogs back onto the property will need to be documented and submitted to us as well.”
“Restitution will also need to be made to Home at Last for the expenses they’ve incurred for housing the dogs since the time of the incident,” Commissioner Steve Kramer added. “The folks that support Home at Last shouldn’t be the ones to pay the bill for this.”
Kris Boler, executive director of Home at Last Humane Society, said she didn’t “want an inability to pay be a factor in not allowing these dogs to go home, however, some kind of restitution is needed, but there are many options to go about that.”
Pareira said she was more than willing to put in the time and effort it would take to repay Home at Last for their services, and that she just wanted to ensure that her dogs would remain safe in the meantime.
As a result of the board’s decision to charge the minimum fine with the addition of $50 and the previously stated conditions for the dog’s eventual return, both of Pareira’s pets will be able to be released from Home at Last’s care and kept in a secure environment safely away from any other livestock until needed improvements to both enclosures are made to the satisfaction of the county.