A Deschutes County judge ruled community service was not enough for a Philomath woman who stole a dog that was leashed to a post in downtown Bend — the judge gave her jail time and said “dogs are family members.”
“Ms. McCaskill, it is frankly difficult to believe the excuses you’re giving me today for taking someone else’s dog and taking it to Philomath,” Judge Beth Bagley told Sabrina Lynn McCaskill, 42, who was sentenced Thursday in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
The theft of the 1-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever last year from outside a downtown Bend arcade drew widespread media and social media attention around the state. And reuniting the animal, a male named Kido, with his family required the resources of several police agencies.
McCaskill and her attorney came to court having arranged a plea deal with prosecutors that included 18 months probation, 80 hours community service and a $500 compensatory fine to be paid to the dog’s owner.
McCaskill, a Philomath nurse, had no prior criminal history.
“I regret the decision,” she told the judge. “I’m extremely sorry to all parties.”
But after hearing from the victim, Bagley announced the plea deal was too light, adding a $200 conviction fee, more than doubling McCaskill’s community service — to 200 hours — and sentencing her to two days in jail.
Bagley further admonished the defendant for disregarding an earlier court order to be booked and fingerprinted at the Deschutes County jail.
“As a dog owner, you should know that dogs are family members to people who have dogs,” Bagley said. “I agree with the victim here, and I think this is a matter of you being repentant only because you got caught.”
About 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Matthew Torney, of Bend, visited the Vector Volcano arcade on Oregon Avenue, tying his dog Kido’s leash to a post outside.
Surveillance footage shows McCaskill manipulating Kido’s leash and walking off with him. That night, she and her boyfriend returned to Philomath with Kido.
Police put out a public call for help finding the pet, and posts were circulated widely in the media and social media.
That Sunday night, McCaskill’s then-boyfriend called the Bend Police Department, saying they had taken the dog out of concern for his health. When Corvallis police caught up with McCaskill, she said she intended to take the dog to the Humane Society after the weekend.
She repeated that the dog appeared malnourished and mistreated.
Police took the dog to the Emergency Vet Center of Central Oregon, where vets found no signs of abuse or undernourishment.
Local authorities charged McCaskill with first-degree theft of a companion animal, a felony in Oregon.
She was arraigned Oct. 30.
At sentencing Thursday, Torney addressed the judge.
“Sabrina and her boyfriend are probably good people at heart — they just made a mistake. But man, it caused a lot of frustration and anxiety and emotional stress for my family and our friends,” Torney said.
He said McCaskill’s then-boyfriend — now ex-boyfriend — should have been charged, calling him an “accomplice.”
Defense attorney Leslie Nitcher asked Bagley to approve the plea deal, which would record the crime of first-degree theft — usually a felony — as a misdemeanor.
“A felony could affect her employment, your honor,” Nitcher said.
Then, McCaskill addressed the judge.
“I am very sorry. It was a bad decision. It was not done with malicious …”
Bagley cut her off.
“Why didn’t you call the numbers on the tag?” the judge asked.
“In my mind, I thought the dog had been neglected. It was barking. It had been left out there. So I didn’t want to contact the person that was doing that.”
Seated in the gallery, Torney shook his head from side to side.
“It didn’t even occur to me to call police,” McCaskill said
Bagley didn’t believe McCaskill’s explanations.
“You didn’t have any intention to do anything with this dog,” she said. “The owners of that dog, their phone numbers were clearly on that placard. This dog was not abused or neglected. So none of these things seem to excuse or sufficiently explain what you did.”
Torney is a local contractor whose family includes a wife, daughter, Kido, another dog and a cat.
Handsome and unneutered, Kido has potential as a stud, Torney said. It’s possible McCaskill sought to earn money that way, he said.
Beyond that, he said, the dog is just special.
“You get a feeling for creatures when you meet them; you get a feel for their energy,” Torney said. “And this one, if you spend a minute or two with him, you go, ‘Wow, this is a fantastic creature.’ I think a little of that happened here.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org