Some rescued collies brought to South Whidbey

When Lassie needed help this week, he and dozens of other collies got some.

Unlike in the old television show, this time it was the collie who needed rescuing. In fact it was 75 Lassie look-a-likes that needed help. The purebred collies were rescued from a Camano Island home Sunday by Island County Sheriff deputies and a number of animal welfare workers.

According to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, a Camano Island couple, Paul and Karen Chestney, are accused of causing the dogs unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain. Each was charged with one count of second-degree animal cruelty, a misdemeanor.

The rescue effort began late Sunday night and continued into Monday morning.

Eight of the dogs made it to the WAIF facility in Coupeville about 12:30 a.m. Monday. On Tuesday night, 25 more came over to Whidbey for housing

The dogs, which range from puppies to dogs several years old, were kept in kennels outside, in the house and in a dark basement without ventilation, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jan Smith. The kennels were inundated with urine and feces, and as many as eight dogs were in each 4-by-4-foot kennel, Smith said.

She said the Chestneys agreed to voluntarily surrender the animals after a veterinarian toured their house at 440 Stein Lane and found the animals' living conditions to be unhealthy.

This isn't the first time the Chestneys, both in their 50s, have had legal trouble involving their kennel operation. About a year-and-a-half ago, Island County Animal Control did an "educational enforcement" and taught the couple how to properly care for their pets. In 1998, the Snohomish County Sheriff's office cited Karen Chestney for operating an unlicensed commercial kennel.

The animal removal was the largest ever in Island County. In the aftermath, it has also become a housing crisis, as animal rescue workers search for temporary housing for the dogs. Some of the collies are being cared for by the Whidbey Animals' Improvement Foundation in Coupeville, other welfare organizations and in homes of Island County residents.

Langley's Jean Favini, who, along with her husband, Jerry, took in two of the dogs Tuesday, was appalled at the conditions in which the animals lived.

"I hope they don't get the dogs back," she said. "I will care for them as long as they need me," said Favini.

Favini, the founder of the nonprofit animal rescue organization Oasis for Animals, said the dogs were timid when they arrived at her home and paced along the fence reluctant to lie down for the first couple of days. By Thursday evening, Favini said, the dogs seemed more relaxed.

One of the two had been "debarked," meaning its voice box had been removed. The other is suffering from a severe ear infection that will take several weeks to treat. Both are malnourished.

Favini says she spending a lot of time trying to reassure the dogs.

"They do respond to kind words and affection," she said. "As I was hugging one, she put her front paws on my shoulders."

The dogs came to the island covered in filth. Laurie Cecil of Laurie's Warm Fuzzies Grooming in Clinton was one of a number of people who helped clean and groom the dogs while they were at WAIF. She said she expects to return this weekend to help with the collies.

The Chestneys face a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine if convicted. Banks said a civil penalty of $1,000 could also be imposed. This money would be dedicated to enforcing animal cruelty laws.

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