Collies win in court

A Camano Island couple that pleaded guilty by way of an Alford plea last month to second-degree animal cruelty was back in court on Tuesday for non-compliance of the court order handed down at the June 18 hearing.

Now, the new court order is even tougher.

Paul and Karen Chestney were found with 79 collie dogs on their property on May 5.

Island County Animal Control officers took the dogs into protective custody because the Chestneys were keeping the dogs in deplorable living conditions and many of the dogs were underweight and showed signs of neglect.

At the June 18 sentencing the Chestneys were ordered to pay fines; were placed under probation for two years; were sentenced to electronic home monitoring; and were ordered to select only 10 of the dogs to keep. Those ten dogs needed to be spayed or neutered, at the Chestneys’ expense, before returning to the Chestney home.

Island County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Doug Losak hauled the Chestneys back into court on Tuesday for failing to identify the 10 dogs they wished to keep, which held up the adoption process for the other 69 dogs. All 79 dogs have been cared for in shelters, professional kennels and individual volunteer foster homes for the past two months.

The inability to seek adoptive homes for the dogs has forced the county to continue paying for their care, which is equal to five dollars per day per dog, Losak told Judge Thomas Coughlin during the proceedings.

Karen Chestney spoke to the judge during Tuesday’s court appearance, exhibiting indignation and ultimately announcing that she intended to withdraw her plea of June 18. She also asked that the dogs not be adopted out until after a court hears her motion to rescind her plea. Paul Chestney soon followed by stating that he wanted to rescind his plea of June 18 as well.

Judge Coughlin denied the Chestneys the rescinding of their Alford plea and ordered that four dogs the couple selected be returned to them and the other 75 dogs be put up for adoption.

The couple lost the right to the other six dogs in the original ruling.

Animal protection advocates are celebrating the ruling, calling it a victory for the dogs.

“Once again our prosecutor, Doug Losak, did an outstanding job representing the collies and their best interests as his clients,” said Whidbey Island Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes. “And the animals’ best interests did prevail again thanks to his efforts.”

Coughlin also ordered the Chestneys to pay a $918 veterinary bill for surgery on one of the collies last month, as well as five dollars per day per dog from June 18 until the dogs are placed in new homes.

“Judge Coughlin truly showed compassion and a sense of justice for the collies. And, we want the public to know that justice was served,” Barnes said.

Homes, donations sought

Island County Animal Control officers and Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation staff are set to begin the process of finding permanent homes for the dogs.

Donations for the care and feeding of the dogs are still needed and accepted, said Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes, and she especially needs good quality “doggie cookies.”

Donations can be made to WAIF shelter by calling 678-5816.

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