Fraudulent adoption sends dogs to abusive owners

Whisper, one of the collies seized from Paul and Karen Chestney on Camano Island, is living with the couple again, according to county animal control officers. - submitted photo
Whisper, one of the collies seized from Paul and Karen Chestney on Camano Island, is living with the couple again, according to county animal control officers.
— image credit: submitted photo

Three "Lassies" found their home again.

Though this may sound like a fairy tale ending, it's not for local animal welfare activists. Three collies, rescued along with 75 others from a Camano Island home this spring, were recently found back living with their original owners, even though animal control officials seized them in May after determining the dogs were neglected and abused.

Karen and Paul Chestney, who were charged for animal abuse and neglect in connection with the dog seizure, got back two females and a male collie sometime late in the summer or this fall, according to Island County Animal Control. Apparently, friends of the couple adopted the dogs in August and turned them over to the Chestneys.

Shari Bibich, shelter manager for the Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation, said the news is a "one hanky" ending to a sad story. WAIF cared for most of the rescued dogs after they were seized.

"It's a real heartache for all of us," Bibich said this week.

In May Island County Sheriff deputies and animal control officers seized 75 collies from the Chestney home. The Chestneys later pled guilty to second-degree animal cruelty. During their trial, the prosecution alleged the Chestneys failed to provide food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation, ventilation, space and medical attention for their dogs.

The collies were held by WAIF and other animal welfare organizations until the Chestneys pled guilty. All the dogs were later put up for adoption. The three that went back to the Chestney home were apparently adopted from WAIF by friends of the Chestneys.

The three dogs came to WAIF in poor health. Bibich said the male, named Orion, had an untreated hernia and puncture wounds on his muzzle. One of the females, named Whisper by shelter staff, had been "debarked." All three dogs were underweight at the time of the seizure.

Bibich said two of the three people who adopted the dogs were from Everett. At the time, the adoptions did not worry her.

"But they really ran a scam on us," she said.

An Island County Animal Control officer discovered the three dogs in the Chestney home during court-ordered monitoring of the couple's animal care in October.

In acquiring the dogs, the Chestneys are not violating their probation. The court allowed them to have 10 of their dogs back if the animals were spayed and neutered. At the time of their conviction, the Chestneys did not take any of the dogs back. All of them were adopted by others.

The people who adopted the three collies in question violated WAIF's adoption contract. They were to return the animals to the shelter if they were "unable or unwilling" to care for them. Though WAIF could take them to court over the adoption, Bibich said it would be difficult and expensive to prove the case.

All those bothered by the adoption can do now is worry. Carol Barnes, an Island County Animal Control office involved with the case, said she never expected the Chestneys to get their dogs back in this manner.

"We were devastated when we found out the dogs were back with them," Barnes said. "They were adopted by off island people, apparently friends of the Chestneys, and they took advantage of us."

South Whidbey animal activist Jean Favini, who cared for several of the rescued collies, was also concerned for the dogs' welfare.

"After witnessing first-hand the conditions these dogs were in when they were seized from the Chestneys, I am very frightened for their future," she said.

Barnes says one positive outcome of the proceedings against the Chestneys is that they are suspended from the American Kennel Club. They are now prohibited from selling registered dogs. The dogs returned to the Chestneys were spayed and neutered by veterinarians at WAIF.

According to Animal Control, the Chestneys are meeting the standards required by the county for animal care at this time. Random monitoring by animal control will continue for two years.


Karen Chestney to be heard in Superior Court

Karen Chestney is asking for another day in court.

She is seeking to have her guilty plea withdrawn in an animal cruelty case involving an alleged collie puppy farm at her Camano Island home. The appeal was filed in district court and denied on Nov. 5. But according to Island County Prosecutor, Greg Banks, Chestney with a new attorney is appealing to a higher power, Island County Superior Court

Banks said Chestney is seeking a reversal based claims of inadequate representation and difficulty hearing the proceedings against her. Chestney and her husband, Paul, were convicted in June of second-degree animal cruelty after Island County Sheriff deputies and animal control officers rescued 75 collies who were living in squalid conditions at the couple's home.

"She is pursuing vigorously every avenue open to her," Banks said.

Banks said it is unlikely that Chestney's claim of poor hearing will overturn her guilty plea. He said medical records voluntarily entered during during the first hearing show she "can hear speech fine," Banks said.

Banks says the county's position is that the decision of the district court judge is legally sound and should not be overturned.

The Chestneys were sentenced to serve 30 days in jail, or 60 days in electronic home detention, pay $2,000 each in fines and penalties and to forfeit all but 10 of their 75 dogs. They may have no more than 10 dogs living at their residence for the next two years. All dogs they own must be spayed or neutered. They are also subject to random monitoring by Island County animal control staff.

To date Karen Chestney has not served her 60 days electronic detention. Paul began serving his 60-day electronic home detention on Aug. 1, but according to Island County Sheriff spokeswoman, Jan Smith he failed to meet the condition of the home detention and had to serve his final three days, Sept, 25 through 28 in Island County jail.

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