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Battle rages in Colorado over sheepherder's guard dogs that attacked a cyclist

As suburbia draws closer to rural ranchland areas, it seems inevitable that tensions will flare.  In one such incident, cyclist Renee Legro was attacked by two Great Pyrenees guard dogs employed by Colorado sheep rancher Sam Robinson; Robinson authorized the dogs to be euthanized following the attack.  For Legro and her husband, that wasn't enough: They wanted Robinson charged with a crime.  Our colleague Nicholas Riccardi has the story; here's an excerpt:

Sheep The herd, 1,300 strong, has been coming for 30 years to graze in this valley on the backside of the Continental Divide. But as Colorado has become an adventure sports destination, the once-empty valley has filled with hikers, campers and mountain bikers like Legro, and she was about to tragically embody the collision of the old West with the new.

Legro, 33, screamed because she knew what came with the herd -- guard dogs. Shortly after she rolled down a hill and came upon the sheep, a dog leaped at her, locked its jaws on her hip and yanked her off her bike.

A second dog pounced as she fell. The two enormous canines, powerful enough to fend off bears, tore at her until her cries drew two campers who drove them off. The emergency-room doctor lost count of how many stitches she required.

To Legro and her husband, Steve, there was one person responsible -- Sam Robinson. One of a dwindling number of sheepherders in Colorado's mountains, Robinson, 54, turned to guard dogs a decade ago, after the state banned the use of traps to prevent mountain lions, coyotes and bears from destroying herds.

"We don't have any other option," Robinson said.

THERE'S MORE; READ THE REST.

Photo: Robinson's flock of sheep stand on a mesa above Silt, Colo.  Credit: Nathan W. Armes / For The Times

 
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I'm sure that this story and the accompanying one must enrage other readers as much as it enrages me. A yuppie couple move to Colorado and the wife foolishly strays into a sheep herd because she can't ride a bicycle properly and has lost track of the others in her group. The sheep herd and the dogs were supposed to be there - Renee Legro was not supposed to be there. Because of her idiotic behavior, two beautiful mountain dogs, already scarred because of their encounters with mountain lions and coyotes, are out of business and perhaps dead. Further, the lack of guard dogs has led to the death of many sheep to predators. Way to go, Renee! Go back to the east coast and decrease the Colorado yuppie population.

IT WOULD SEEM TO ME THAT THAT ORGANIZERS OF THE BIKE RACE AND THE FOREST SERVICE SHARE CULPABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO BOTH THE ROBINSON AND THE LEGROS FAMILIES IN THIS INCIDENT.

IF THE FOREST SERVICE IS GOING TO PROMOTE MULTIPLE USE FOR GOVERNMENT LAND THEN THEY SHOULD TAKE STEPS IN ADVANCE TO PROTECT INTERESTS OF BOTH GRAZING PERMITTEES AND RECREATIONAL USERS.

THE RACE ORGANIZERS ALSO SHOULD HAVE BEEN FULLY AWARE OF THE PRESENCE OF GRAZING HERDS AND GUARD DOGS, AS THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME SUCH INCIDENTS HAVE OCCURRED.

COMMUNICATION BETWEEN USFS, RACE ORGANIZERS, RACE PARTICIPANTS, AND GRAZING PERMITTEES MIGHT HAVE PREVENTED THIS UNFORTUNATE SITUATION.

Who is at fault when the dogs are doing their job protecting the sheep from a rider hurling forward toward them at predator speed? Dogs are not toys and working dogs are suppose to do their job. How are they to know that this predator was only intending to ride her bike. These people who live in suburbia and cross into the wild world where bears, cougars and wolves roam need to understand that the sheep need protection. The animal rights zealots have made the world think humans can live with such predators and have sweet little cozy dogs as well. Bears are overunning New Jersey, coyotes the west, cougars have attacked and eaten several bikers this year and 3.5 million feral wild pigs weighing over a thousand pounds are tearing up the land and attacking people all across the western states. But the animal rights people won't allow the conservationists do their job. Now this couple who think they have the right to hurl themselves into Mr. Robinson's sheep with impunity in this back country full of predators can get his dogs killed and have him in jail just to punish him for being realistic about how the wilderness really works. These are the people who feed this country. They know the real dangers of the wild back country and that they can lose every animal and their lives to the predators. I am very sorry she was attacked, but she was very aware that such an attack could occur. These are dogs that have to fight off predators and rustlers and they are bred to do so without having a human around so that the herd is fully protected at all times. They did not go looking for her she drove full speed into the herd. She says she knew from the moment she did what would happen. She is fully responsible for her actions along with the agency that did not notify Mr. Robinson. This is exactly why you cannot charge someone with a civil suit who has a working dog. Just how is this dog suppose to tell rustlers from bike riders? Just how are these animals suppose to know you are just a bike rider and not a predator? Now we are suppose to train our dogs to not chase cats, squirrels and people who look and act like predators. This Disneyland fantasy of talking pigs, dogs, and horses has gone too far. Expectations of what an animal can do is what is driving up shelter drop offs. Studies show that it is people's unrealistic expectations that a dog should understand everything they say or always be trainable. Dogs are not people and this is the problem with the urbanites who move into wild country today or try to tell farmers, ranchers and other professionals how to deal with their animals. This is not Disneyland nor some fairy tale world. In Africa where people are fairly close to the land they know the lion will eat you and their dogs are for protection from both people and other animals. These two dogs who had discharged their duties all of their lives are now dead. Is this family showing any remorse over that? No, they destroy a man's living, his reputation, and now they want him to pay with his life for something she did knowing the risks. Don't ride your bikes in the wild high country if you don't want to take the risk of running into such situations. She entered what the dogs thought to be their home threatening their family and she expects them to sit and do nothing. She knew this could happen and yet she went out riding her bike in terroritory just like the people who think they can run across the freeway without getting hurt. This is misplaced anger on her part and bad justice from the judge who should know better. We do not charge a driver who hits someone who runs out into the street knowing before hand they can be hit by a car. She rode her bike out into the wild high country knowing these dogs are out there to protect the sheep from predators. She is lucky it was only the dogs as she could just have easily been attacked by a cougar as people have been in California on suburban bike trails. America wake up you cannot live in fantasy land and we can no longer afford to allow animal rights zealots to put our lives at risk by preventing conservation management. If the traps had been allowed as they were in the past then the ranchers would not have to resort to the dogs. You cannot train a dog to make decisions. No dog despite the Disney stories can decide who is a rustler and who is not. They respond to the actions presented to them at the moment. She threatened their family and they responded. She invaded their home they did not invade her home. She knowingly ran across a busy freeway at highspeed expecting to not get hurt and now she wants to sue the drivers who hit her. This is not how the world works and judge shame on you for giving into her illogical emotions and blaming this man who is totally in the right and has the good common sense to know it.

Excellent comment Dr. Rosset!
The 2 dogs, both older, have been put down by the owner as an apology to the Legros. It is not enough for them.....they wanted jail time! He didn't have to as they were doing what they were supposed to do....protect their sheep.
The Legros felt the Robinsons weren't showing remorse. What did they want for "remorse"....tears, a verbal/written apology, payment of the hospital bill (altho the article doesn't say, his insurance may have taken care of it)? A ticket for the ownership of a dangerous dog should NEVER have been issued. Since Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert (yuppie type, I figure) felt the dogs were dangerous, it should have resulted in a set fine ONLY that was paid by mailing the fine in. Wanting someone to go to jail over an unfortunate incident THAT WAS CAUSED BY RENEE, is pure out and out Chicago/east coast mentality! What they don't understand is the "Code of the West" and "taciturn manner" of people that have many generations of being raised in the west.

The "Code of the West" started when hardy pioneers moved into the west, where there were no laws, were bound by these unwritten rules that centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.
Ramon Adams, a Western historian, explained it best in his 1969 book, 'The Cowman and His Code of Ethics', saying, in part:

"Back in the days when the cowman with his herds made a new frontier, there was no law on the range. Lack of written law made it necessary for him to frame some of his own, thus developing a rule of behavior which became known as the "Code of the West." These homespun laws, being merely a gentleman’s agreement to certain rules of conduct for survival, were never written into statutes, but were respected everywhere on the range."

Some Codes of the West that are still in play out here:
~A cowboy doesn't talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.
~Do not practice ingratitude.
~Honesty is absolute - your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.
~Consideration for others is central to the code, such as: Don't stir up dust around the chuckwagon, don't wake up the wrong man for herd duty, etc.
~A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
~Real cowboys are modest. A braggert who is "all gurgle and no guts" is not tolerated.
~Don't inquire into a person's past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
~Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
~Live by the Golden Rule.

From the article: "Renee could have returned to the start with a race organizer but decided to finish the course." This indicates to me a "it's about me" attitude....I haven't raced since my daughter was born. I want to do this race....Well, good for you, go for it! Unfortunately, you weren't prepared by having your bike in top condition and thinking the situation thru. Rather than returning to the start area, you say to yourself, "But, but I want to run this race. I want to finish. I'll do it." Did you give any thought that you could have been attacked by a wild animal? No you didn't.....it's all about me. Instead of being attacked by a wild animal, you end up injured by guard dogs doing their duty. Grow up Legros or return to where you came from.

I own a Great Pyrenees male named Roscoe he is a great dog .I totally agree with the last person I am not soory for the yuppie. But I am for the dog's that were doing their job! Take your sitches and you bike and get out of the country,GO BACK TO THE CITY SISSY GIRL!

=v= The writer invites us to consider this as a "collision of the old West with
the new," a sheepherder's supposedly traditional way of life (6,000 years are mentioned) under attack from suburbanites who are, to use the inevitable tiresome stereotype, wearing Lycra.

Reading more closely we find that we're talking about a National Forest, where the "tradition" dates back not to Biblical times, not even back to the "old West," but merely to the 1980s, when James Watt was Secretary of the Interior and permitted grazing on public lands for private benefit.

As predicted, this had an immediate negative impact on what little wildlife remains in the area, especially when grazers started using traps and poisons. In this article, though, a ban on these devastating measures is spun to justify the sheepherder's use of vicious guard dogs.


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