Janet McKague expected the law to crack down on the hunter who killed Porky, her pet pot-bellied pig. Instead, the Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case.
“This is just eating me up because I can’t get it out of my mind,” McKague said. “I don’t say this is justice at all. He should have got charged with something.”
That hunter, Greg Osburn of Boring, said he did nothing wrong.
“There was no criminal charge. I killed a wild pig,” he said. “It’s 100 percent legal in this state.”
Oregon considers swine feral if they meet certain conditions: They must be free roaming animals of the genus Sus; no one responsible for pigs has notified others within a 5-mile radius of their escape within five days; the pigs do not appear tame or domesticated; and the pigs do not meet the criteria for escaped swine.
Osburn said the black pig he shot with his bow-and-arrow on Aug. 31 looked like a wild boar and was on private land where he had permission to hunt outside Pilot Rock. He has been hunting in the Eastern Oregon region for years, he said, and this was the first time he spotted a pig at-large, so he shot it.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife pegs the state’s feral swine population at 2,000 to 5,000. The animals live in two areas, according to the agency: the southwestern portion of the state along the California border, and through central and north central Oregon, including Gilliam and Wheeler counties. That’s as close as they are to the Pilot Rock area.
Feral pigs on public land are “nongame and nonprotected,” according to ODFW, and you can kill them if you have a valid hunting license. But most observations of feral pigs occur on private land. Hunters with permission to take other game on private land can kill feral pigs. Doing so, according to ODFW, “will be doing wildlife and habitat a favor.”
Osburn said that’s just what he did.
Oregon State Police out of Pendleton investigated and did not cite Osburn. State police Sgt. Tim Brown said while the shooting was on private property, the landlord was absent. He also said neighbors know each others’ pets. The best move was giving the police report to the district attorney’s office for the consideration of charges.
“We really weren’t sure how to proceed on this,” Brown said.
McKague said the game trooper that investigated asked her if this might be an animal abuse case. She said all she knew was someone shot and killed her pig and she has yet to see any police report.
The next she heard came Jan. 14, she said, when the victim’s advocate in the district attorney’s office told her the case had a court proceeding the next morning at the county courthouse in Pendleton. McKague and several family members came to court. She said she expected a trial or at least to have the opportunity to tell the judge her point of view.
Instead, she said, they watched in silence as deputy district attorney Cody Hack asked Circuit Judge Jon Lieuallen to dismiss the case. Court records show the district attorney’s office filed paperwork to charge Osburn with a single count of second-degree animal abuse, but Hack subsequently asked the court to dismiss the case in the best interest of justice.
Lieuallen granted the request.
McKague said she and her family could not believe what happened and they stuck around the courthouse waiting for an explanation. Her daughter, Kim McKague, said she finally got Hack to talk to them more than an hour later. Kim McKague said the deputy prosecutor told them he had no case, in spite of Osburn’s admission he shot Porky and the photos he took of their dead pet.
District Attorney Dan Primus said this was a unique case, and for his office to prosecute, there must be a crime. Primus also said he felt for the McKagues. His family has pets, he said, and he would not want anyone to harm them. He said this was a sad set of circumstances.
“We’re extremely sensitive to the family’s situation, and we wish there was more we could do,” Primus said. “But in this situation this is all we can do.”
Osburn said he wrote Janet McKague a letter of apology. He called killing Porky an unfortunate situation. He said it was ridiculous this got to the district attorney’s office. He claimed he spent at least $1,000 defending himself when he did nothing wrong.
Kim McKague said her family is considering civil action. Janet McKague said their miniature pony, which shared barn space with Porky, died last month.
“I think she done plumb died of a broken heart,” she said.
Osburn said he wants this to be the end of the mess, but if they sue him, he will sign citations against Janet McKague for not keeping Porky on her property.
He also said he killed prize elk year after year in the region and contributes to the local economy. Come elk season, he said, he will return.