Last December, a woman took a neglected dog from a property in rural Washington, hoping to liberate an old Blue Heeler from the years he spent tethered up outside in the elements. Then that same woman faced criminal charges for her actions. But was it a rescue or was it pet theft?
Okanogan County, Washington resident Judy Camp was surfing the web when she came across a post on an Internet message board about a neglected dog in her neck of the woods. The message described an old Heeler who lived his life chained up day in and day out outside of the Magruder family’s rural home near the Methow River.
“Dogs spent most of the time on top of their dog houses barking,” the Magruders’ neighbor, who authored the message board posting, wrote, describing the conditions canines have to endure at the Margruders’ home. “Drove me nuts. Thought it very cruel.”
The neighbor was particularly disturbed about the old Heeler’s quality of life on the end of a 4-foot chain, shivering in the cold. When the neighbor confronted the head of the family, Orvil Magruder, about the dog, whom the Magruders called “Duke,” Orvil responded that the dog was a guard dog and that’s how the dog should be treated.
Multiple calls and complaints to the local police yielded no results because the dog had all of the minimum standards of care requirements — food, water, and shelter. No matter how meager all of these requirements were, the police could not charge the Magruders with animal cruelty.
Frustrated, the Magruders’ neighbor took to the web, hoping to find some way to help the poor old dog.
That’s when Judy Camp came along. One December evening, not content to simply sit on the sidelines as the mercury dipped below zero, Camp decided to take matters into her own hands. She drove out to the Magruders’ property to get a look at the dog’s living conditions herself, and what she found shook her to the core.
“He was tied out there in a sea of garbage,” Camp remembers.
Camp couldn’t imagine leaving the old dog out there to freeze overnight, so she made a quick decision and brought him home with her. She decided to call the dog Tank.
Two days later during an appointment at the veterinarian, it was discovered that Tank was not only morbidly obese and blind, but scars on his underside indicated either a previous failed attempt at a neuter or scrotal damage from being frozen to the cold ground on one or more occasions.
But then, a sheriff’s deputy arrived at the vet’s office.
“I informed Camp that the dog was stolen and Camp claimed that it was her dog, named Tank,” Deputy Dave Yarnell explains in his incident report.
While Deputy Yarnell was busy obtaining the dog’s medical records, Camp tried to leave with Tank, but was ultimately unsuccessful after Camp scuffled with the Sheriff’s Deputy in the parking lot of the vet’s office.
Eventually Camp agreed to purchase Tank from the Magruder family for $500, which she paid in full. But the Magruders decided to hold firm and file criminal charges against Camp, their old dog’s new owner.
Following the meeting, Camp faced multiple misdemeanor charges, for which she could have served up to 3 years jail time for her actions.
Judy Camp’s trial began Thursday. After reviewing evidence and hearing testimony, the jury decided that Camp was not guilty of theft or lying to a police officer, but was guilty of obstructing justice for trying to keep the pet from Deputy Yarnell. For that Camp faces a potential jail sentence of up to 1 year and a $5,000 fine.
Despite facing such a harsh sentence, Camp still insists she was in the right.
“Yes, I could have taken a plea bargain, but that would have been a lie,” Camp tells The Spokesman-Review. “I did the right thing for the right reason.”