A woman who took a chained-up dog from deplorable and freezing conditions near Twisp last December will be on trial today in Okanogan County.
Prosecutors accuse Judy Camp of pet theft, lying to police and obstructing justice.
Camp said she saved the partially blind blue heeler she has since adopted and named “Tank.”
Now a jury will decide if she is a hero or a thief. A guilty verdict could put Camp in jail for three years.
“Yes, I could have taken a plea bargain, but that would have been a lie,” Camp said of the case. “I did the right thing for the right reason.”
Camp discovered from an Internet message board that a dog housed along a county road near the Methow River was suffering. The dog belonged to a family with a history of animal neglect, according to several Camp supporters who wrote to the court after charges were filed. One writer lived two houses away and said she often saw two other dogs the family owned chained up at all hours of the day without insulation from the cold.
“Dogs spent most of the time on top of their dog houses barking,” the neighbor wrote. “Drove me nuts. Thought it very cruel.”
The neighbor later approached family patriarch Orvil Magruder about the conditions of the heeler. Magruder said the dog, which they called “Duke,” was a guard dog and treated as such: kept on a 4-foot chain and left alone for hours on end.
The woman said police came out to the site on complaint calls, but the heeler was fed, and had water and shelter, according to requirements set out in animal cruelty laws.
When Camp arrived the night of Dec. 6 – when temperatures were predicted to plunge below zero with wind chills more than 20 degrees below zero – she saw something different.
“He was tied out there in a sea of garbage,” Camp said.
So she took the dog home on a Friday.On the following Monday morning, she took him to the veterinarian and learned the dog had been reported stolen by the owners. A sheriff’s deputy arrived while the dog was being examined. The vet reported the dog was “markedly obese,” tipping the scales at more than 20 pounds overweight. At a subsequent neutering appointment, the vet said the dog showed scarring indicating either a previous unsuccessful neuter attempt or damage perhaps caused by the scrotum freezing to the ground.
Camp recalls the deputy telling her he planned to return the dog to the Magruders.
“I informed Camp that the dog was stolen and Camp claimed that it was her dog, named Tank,” Deputy Dave Yarnell wrote in his official report of the incident.
Camp said she thought Yarnell’s question regarding the dog’s ownership was a tongue-in-cheek inquiry made in jest.
“I thought it was a wink-wink, nod-nod kind of thing,” Camp said. “He knew the answer.”
While Yarnell collected the dog’s medical records, Camp attempted to sneak Tank out a side door and into her vehicle.
But Yarnell caught up to her, and a scuffle ensued. Yarnell claims he was elbowed in the ribs; Camp says she was shoved into her car’s side.
Camp eventually bought Tank from the Magruders for $500. And yet criminal charges were filed anyway. A criminal trespassing count was dropped because the property owner – who is not a Magruder family member – was uninterested in pursuing charges.
Attempts to reach the deputy Okanogan County prosecutor handling the case and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office were unsuccessful.
Tank is now getting along with Camp’s other two dogs, she said. He still plunges his snout into his water bowl before drinking to make sure the contents aren’t frozen. And though Tank can’t see, he still snatches at treats from her hand and comes running when Camp calls. Those are signs, Camp said, that she made the correct decision and would do so again in a heartbeat.
“I did nothing wrong,” she said. “I did everything right.”