By Ann McCreary
A Carlton woman who admitted taking home a dog that she found chained outside in sub-zero weather last December has been sentenced to community service, a fine and two years of probation in connection with the incident.
A jury in Okanogan County District Court last month found Judy Brezina Camp not guilty on two charges brought against her — stealing a pet and making false or misleading statements to a public servant.
The jury found Camp guilty on a third charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer. At a sentencing hearing April 11, Camp was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a fine of $768.
In comments following her sentencing, Camp said she has 10 months to complete her community service, which she expects to do at a spay and neuter clinic in Okanogan. Following successful completion of her probation, the conviction will be cleared from her record, she said.
Camp said that she “showed no remorse” about the actions that led to charges against her in a statement presented to pro-tem Judge Thomas Warren at the sentencing hearing.
Camp said in her statement that she was “prosecuted for trying to protect an animal that could not speak for himself. I stood up for what I strongly believed in, which was myself and a badly abused dog.”
During her trial, Camp acknowledged that she removed the dog from a residence north of Twisp last Dec. 6, when temperatures were –5 degrees. She had heard about the dog on a local Internet bulletin board and said she took him home because she was afraid he would freeze.
Camp took the dog on Dec. 9 to a local veterinary office, where she was met by Dave Yarnell, animal control deputy with the Okanogan County sheriff’s office. Yarnell had received a complaint from the dog’s owner that the dog was missing and the deputy subsequently learned the dog was being brought to the vet for an appointment.
Charges that Camp lied to and obstructed a police officer stemmed from an encounter between Camp and Yarnell at the vet’s office. Camp testified that she initially said the dog was hers, but that the statement was intended as a joke.
Yarnell and Camp argued when the deputy told her the dog was stolen and she needed to let him take the dog, according to testimony at the trial. Camp took the dog out of the vet’s office while Yarnell was in a different room and was putting the dog into her car when Yarnell followed her outside. Yarnell reached into the car to try to remove the dog and Camp resisted, elbowing the deputy in the chest during the scuffle.
Yarnell arrested Camp but did not take her into custody, and the dog was placed in a kennel at the vet’s office. Camp contacted the dog’s owner, Juanita Magruder of Carlton, and offered to pay $500 for the dog. She raised the money through donations, paid Magruder and took the dog home later that day. Camp still has the dog, a 7-year-old blue heeler that she calls Tank.
During the trial, Magruder testified that the dog was kept chained outside on property belonging to a friend who lives about 15 miles from the Magruder home. She said the friend was often gone and the dog had been kept there for two-and-a-half or three years to keep people off the property. She said the dog was given food and water every day.
Methow Valley residents called as defense witnesses said the dog was confined on a short chain attached to a flatbed trailer on the property, described by some as a “junkyard,” where it was exposed to harsh weather.
Yarnell said he had received reports about the dog on a number of occasions and checked on it, but found “nothing criminal” in the way it was being treated.
The jury found Camp guilty only on the obstruction charge, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
In her statement to Judge Warren prior to sentencing Camp said, “I steadfastly believe that Tank should have never spent more than a month in that field, not three long years.”
Camp said her lack of contrition prompted “a pretty good talking to” from the judge. “He said I made poor choices, and I should have called the police … and let the dog owners know where he was,” Camp said.
“They did this to try to make an example of me, so other people wouldn’t go out there and snatch dogs,” Camp said after the sentencing. “You have no idea how many people have told me … they had done exactly the same thing only they didn’t get caught like I did.”
Camp said she expects to perform her community service at the OK SNIP nonprofit spay and neuter clinic in Okanogan.
She said she plans to begin working with several local residents who are concerned with animal welfare to try to create an animal shelter in the Methow Valley. The group also hopes to revise laws regarding animal neglect and cruelty to provide clearer guidelines on treatment of animals, Camp said.