News

Smiley undergoes behavior analysis, DNA test

Oak Harbor based lawyer Mark Theune, center, speaks with Judge Vickie Churchill on behalf of Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation. Steven Paysse, right, is the executive director of WAIF. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor based lawyer Mark Theune, center, speaks with Judge Vickie Churchill on behalf of Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation. Steven Paysse, right, is the executive director of WAIF.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Smiley, a mixed breed dog living at Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation shelter in Coupeville, will undergo DNA testing and behavioral analysis as ordered by Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill.

The judge also ordered WAIF to give copies of their 990 and 990-EZ forms, including quarterly tax filings, filed between 2005 and 2008, documentation of the Coupeville shelter revenues, and notes on funding that specifically supported Smiley, to Bellingham animal law attorney Adam Karp.

Karp’s motion called for DNA testing to determine Smiley’s heritage, behavioral analysis to test his temperament, tax filings for insight into WAIF’s stream of revenue, and correspondence with his clients to find if WAIF unfairly denied his clients adoption of Smiley.

The order issued Wednesday came almost one month after the start of a legal battle between WAIF and former volunteers, Bob Baker and Barbara Moran, who allege that WAIF unjustly rejected their offer to adopt Smiley.

Baker and Moran are suing WAIF for custody of the dog. WAIF intended to euthanize Smiley on Nov. 13 because of aggressive behavior that developed after living at the shelter for almost two years.

But Baker and Moran want to save Smiley from euthanasia, even if the dog goes to someone else’s home.

“We don’t care where he goes,” said Baker, “as long as he’s in a good home.”

Shari Bibich, shelter manager, maintains that the dog is not suitable for adoption because of aggressive behavior. Smiley was originally listed as an adoptable pet, she said, but has since shown signs of kennel stress.

Smiley was picked up by Island County animal control three times before his original owner, Bernard Perez, surrendered him to WAIF.

WAIF tried its best to find the dog a home, Bibich said. Until early November, Smiley was listed on the shelter’s Web site, on PetFinder.com, in the Whidbey News-Times, taken to adoption events and advertised on posters and fliers throughout the island, she said.

Baker, who attended the hearing, brought along one such flier. The one-page announcement, dated July 9 of this year, listed Smiley, along with 19 other pets available for adoption. Baker’s wife, Barbara Moran, did not attend the hearing due to stress-induced asthma, he said.

Stephen Paysse, executive director for WAIF, appeared in Island County Superior Court Wednesday alongside WAIF’s lawyer Mark Theune of Oak Harbor.

All strays and animals brought to WAIF by animal control are held for five days before they are evaluated for adoption, Paysse said. Animals that are dropped off by their owners, like Smiley, are evaluated immediately; however, the organization cannot guarantee how long an animal might stay at the shelter before it is adopted.

Baker and Moran also charge that WAIF is in violation of their adoption policy, but Paysse said that WAIF conducts each adoption on a case-by-case basis.

“There is no formal written policy,” he said, adding that WAIF only has a general list of guidelines.

The organization is overseen by a volunteer board of directors, who meet monthly. The meetings are not public, Paysse said, but the board opens the first half-hour of each meeting for public input.

Because WAIF is a privately-run organization, said Theune, they are within their right to hold closed meetings.

The judge’s most recent ruling was a surprise to Paysse.

“When they first inquired, we were very forthcoming,” he said of Karp’s requests for information in September.

Paysse felt that if WAIF cooperated, Karp would see there was no case.

Karp’s requests were part of public record, he said, so WAIF had no reason to withhold the information.

The only document WAIF did not provide, Paysse said, was the shelter’s most recent 990 filings because they were not yet available. The forms provide information on the organization’s finances.

The forms, which were signed Nov. 14, have since been filed and audited, and are now available for review, he said.

Judge Churchill also ordered WAIF to produce their financial records, certain correspondences, in addition to the behavioral and genetic testing.

Karp sought the same information during a Dec. 1 hearing, but Churchill refused to hear the motion because Karp failed to properly notify Theune, a violation of Island County court rules.

In response, Karp filed a new motion. This time, Churchill ruled on Karp’s motion in his favor.

Churchill’s new ruling presented a problem, Karp said. While her decision would allow him to access the information, he would not have enough time to review it and submit findings to the court by the Dec. 11 deadline. To allow for more time, Karp asked Churchill to move the Dec. 23 hearing date back and extend the temporary restraining order, which was granted Nov. 12 and is set to expire on Dec. 31. Churchill allowed the extension and the two lawyers agreed on a new hearing date of Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Paysse is unclear why Karp alleges that WAIF is acting in a “retaliatory, heedless and unreasoning” manner.

“For what? They didn’t do anything to us,” he said of Baker and Moran.

Baker volunteered to serve as the temporary executive director at WAIF for four months from April through July 2007. Moran worked as a temporary paid employee for WAIF. Baker’s contract was not renewed because of personal differences, Paysse said.

The couple, who make their home in Freeland, run Operation TeddyCare, a nonprofit organization that sends teddy bears to disaster victims around the world.

According to Karp, Baker and Moran have donated “thousands of dollars” to WAIF.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 27 edition online now. Browse the archives.