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Judge cuts couple from 10 to 5 collies

A Camano Island couple who pleaded guilty in an Alford plea last month to second-degree animal cruelty was back in court on last week for noncompliance with the court order handed down at the June 18 hearing.

Now, a new court order is even tougher.

Paul and Karen Chestney were found May 5 with 79 collie dogs on their property. Island County Animal Control officers took the dogs into protective custody, stating that the Chestneys were keeping the dogs in deplorable living conditions and that many of the dogs were underweight and showed signs of neglect.

At a 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 10 dogs needed to be spayed or neutered at the Chestneys' expense before returning to the Chestney home.

Island County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Doug Losak brought the Chestneys back into court July 9 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.

Losak told Judge Thomas Coughlin during the proceedings that the inability to seek adoptive homes for the dogs has forced the county to continue paying for their care, which is $5 per day per dog.

Karen Chestney spoke to the judge during Tuesday's court appearance, expressing indignation and announcing that she intended to withdraw her plea of June 18. She also asked that the dogs not be adopted until after a court hears her motion to rescind her plea. Paul Chestney said he also wanted to withdraw his plea.

Coughlin denied both requests to withdraw the Alford pleas. He 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 granted in the original ruling.

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

Coughlin also ordered the Chestneys to pay a $918 veterinary bill for surgery on one of the collies last month, as well as $5 per day per dog from June 18 until the dogs are placed in new homes.

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