Desperately the beleaguered and unfairly maligned rescuer of dogs drove his semi truck across the desert, his one hundred and twenty four dogs packed in wooden crates in the back. Fleeing for their lives, they sought refuge as far from other people as they could get…only out on the stark expenses of Arizona, miles from the nearest town could they find safety…
Reads like a plot synopsis of a made-for-TV movie, doesn’t it? And like many such movies, its relationship to reality is tenuous. This staged faux-heroic rescue was the bogus ending to a story that started with illusions and falsehoods. This is the story of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. (Updated version of previously published story).
Over on the west side of the Olympic Mountains is the little town of Forks, a community of about three thousand that became famous for its connection with the Twilight series. Now Forks is infamous for a different connection: OAS.
The Olympic Animal Sanctuary’s website is alluring: lovely rural scenery, pictures of dogs affectionately interacting with the Sanctuary’s founder, Steve Markwell, inspiring stories about the rescue of dogs no one wanted. The sanctuary claimed to provide a healthy, nurturing environment for dogs deemed undoptable due to behavior problems. But it was all an illusion. The so-called sanctuary was a dark dismal stinking warehouse where dogs died of thirst or from attacks by other dogs. Police photos taken over a year ago showed dogs stacked in crates in the filthy darkness, dead dogs in a freezer, a dead dog lying in dirty straw next to an empty water bucket, dogs with injuries and missing fur, one emaciated dog…conditions that usually result in confiscation of the dogs and jailing of the owner.
But not in Forks.
In spite of the evidence of abuse and neglect, for over a year the authorities of Forks protected the manager, Steve Markwell, from prosecution. Meanwhile other people stepped up to protect the dogs through other means: complaints to the Attorney General of donations raised for projects never started, complaints of consumer fraud, and at least two lawsuits: one for the recovery of donated money that was not used for the purpose intended by the donor, and one for the return of a dog. OAS: Life in the Sanctuary, a Facebook page, became a focal point for collecting and disseminating information. By December of 2013, the page had over 11,000 “likes”. Demonstrators drove the long winding highway around the Olympic Range to stand outside the OAS facility in protest of the conditions within. People who had given dogs to OAS contacted Markwell, begging for their dogs be returned to them. The story grew and became first a local issue, then a regional one, and finally, through the animal rescue community, a national one. http://freesonny.wordpress.com/
Then suddenly early on the morning of December 21, after losing custody of one of the dogs by ruling of a judge, Markwell crammed one hundred and twenty four dogs into a semi truck and drove away.
Update number one: The authorities in Forks must have known that there was something wrong at OAS.
I drove out to see his facility for myself about two weeks ago. It’s a four hour drive one way, but worth the trip because now I know how culpable the community leaders of Forks are for sheltering an abuser of dogs.
This is what I saw: a small warehouse no bigger than a modest house. One window upstairs. No sign, no office, no posted hours for visiting, and nobody there to care for the dogs. Small yard areas walled off from view by tall fences topped with prison wire. There was no way for over one hundred dogs to be housed in that small space legally or humanely. There was nothing about the place that corresponded to the claims on the OAS website or the reasonable expectations a person would have of a facility for the care of dogs. It looked like a hoarding situation.
It stank. I could smell it clear across the street. The warehouse is inside the town of Forks in a mixed neighborhood of houses and light industry. It’s right there for anyone to walk or drive by.
This is what the police saw about a year ago: (WARNING GRAPHIC)
For those of you who don’t want to see the images, many of the dogs were kept in crates and small kennels with straw for bedding. The straw in the photos is obviously filthy. The water in the buckets is yellow and dirty. Some of the dogs have no water. One of the dogs is dead, lying by an empty water bucket. One dog has his head stuck in the wire of the kennel. A few are barking fiercely, but most seem lethargic. It’s dark and the dogs are hard to see. In short, the “sanctuary” in the photos looks no different than a hoarding situation or a puppymill (except that there are no puppies). The photos provided evidence of multiple infractions of Washington State law: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/...
OAS supporters claimed that the disgusting conditions in the photos were just a temporary lapse that Steve Markwell was determined to fix. However emails quoted in a recent Seattle Dogspot article reveal that conditions had been just as bad a year prior to the police photos and Steve Markwell knew it. He even agreed in an email to one of this volunteers that his facility was over crowded, dirty, and smelly. Here’s an excerpt from the article followed by a link to the whole article:
After reconsidering our offer to volunteer on a regular basis at your sanctuary, we had to make the difficult decision that we can’t get involved at this time. The reasons for our decision are as follows:
1. You are completely overloaded with dogs.
2. We have a major problem with dogs being kept in airline crates for long periods of time.
3. Dogs being kept in darkness for long periods of time.
4. Due to the poor sanitation and lack of ventilation, the ammonia smell is almost unbearable.
5. The heat inside the building, especially for the dogs behind the glass doors.
6. Many of the dogs have no access to water.
7. No regular exercise outside on a daily basis.
Many of those dogs have severe behavioral problems. We believe that keeping them in those conditions only makes matters worse. With no rehabilitation efforts or exercise on a regular basis to release some of that energy, the boredom, frustration, and aggression will only get worse. You are putting yourself in a dangerous situation.
We hope you are able to fulfill ALL of your plans for the future. We also hope there are no hard feelings between us because of this. It was nice to meet you and we enjoyed your conversation. Best wishes and Good Luck.
I'm sorry you feel that way. We've had some problems recently -- major drop in funding at the start of the year and I had some people come in and essentially refuse to work. Our building project slowed way down, so dogs that I shouldn't have taken have had to wait way longer than planned to get kennels, and a huge section of the yard has been unusable.
I understand your concerns, and they're my concerns as well -- we have been working on a plan to get things back on track. As to the specific issues you raise:
1. Yes, we're overloaded. As I said, I took on more than I should have, and we're working to address it with new construction. We've also closed our waiting list and are not accepting more dogs for future placement. We did try to work with other groups to remove the dogs that we felt were more adoptable, and we received absolutely no support; it was very disheartening.
2. The crated dogs are a temporary situation; the ones in the hallway are getting kennels, and the ones in the main room are there only during part of the day -- they are out all night and go outside during part of the day. I'm not thrilled with the setup and am working to get kennels for them.
3. Everyone has lights in their rooms/kennels. Some of them are dimly lit, but they all have light.
4. The ammonia is a huge problem, which is why we're working to get away from straw and get to a surface we can wash down daily. Unfortunately due to lack of help, keeping everything clean is difficult and I end up having to pay someone to come in. I can't afford to do it very often -- I am working to get volunteers to help so I don't spend money we don't have.
5. The glass doors are a bad situation -- one of the first things I will be doing when I get the new kennels built is to also get rid of those doors and replace them with wire mesh -- we will also pour concrete to bring the floor level up, so it can be washed off daily instead of using straw.
6. We don't put water in the crates because it spills, so instead we take those dogs out to drink. One of the benefits to the raw diet is that the dogs drink much less, but we are still sure to make sure everyone gets plenty of water.
7. I wish all the dogs got out every day, and my hope is that with enough help, until we can get a larger property, we can take the ones that don't get along with other dogs for daily walks, while the others play in the yards.
So Markwell knew two years ago that his facility was over crowded, that dogs were inappropriately housed for abusively long periods in crates, and that the place stank. But he did nothing about it. We know this as a fact because a year later the police took photos of the same conditions.
So why didn’t this hell hole get shut down after the police took the incriminating photos?
The short version is the Mayor and the City Attorney didn’t support prosecution. They received an email from Matthew Randazzo, former Chair of the Clallam County Democrats who was, a that time, VP of the Olympic Sanctuary. Fleck and Markwell were Democratic precinct officers. Randazzo now has a position as an executive in the Lands Commission.
This is the email Mr. Randazzo sent to the Mayor:
In case you didn’t follow the link, Randazzo threatened to withdraw his support for “mutual political goals” and end his “working relationship” with the Mayor unless the Mayor quashed the investigation. It looks to me like he used his Democratic Party connections to threaten to obstruct public policy development unless the Mayor protected his friend.
This email exchange was part of a series of communications between Forks Mayor Monohon, City attorney Fleck, and the OAS lawyer, communications which show a pattern of disinclination to act and excuse-making by the city authorities on behalf of Markwell . The sorry story is documented in emails and police files made public and posted on the Facebook page OAS Life Inside the Sanctuary.
Instead of prosecuting Markwell, the Mayor and the City Attorney accepted his word that he would reduce his dog population and clean the place up. A committee was formed to help him re-organize, get dogs out of crates, and put the sanctuary on better management terms.
Over the next six months or so Markwell made some cosmetic changes in the facility and released a few small dogs from crates into small kennels. However, he only released five or six dogs to rescues. He refused to release Itsy, Sophie, Sonny and Leroy even though the rescues that sent those dogs to him wanted them back. He engaged in a legal fight to keep Leroy, a dog from Seattle. (His defeat in the legal fight to keep Leroy may have provoked his flight with the rest of the dogs.) Animal Rescue Corps was prepared to accept all of the dogs and disperse them to reputable rescues and sanctuaries.
The committee to help reorganize OAS broke up because Markwell would not cooperate with any suggestions. He is the target of a lawsuit because he accepted fifty thousand dollars from a lady for the purpose of expanding the facility but did not spend the money that way.
In April two visitors came by the facility to see a dog a friend had left in Markwell’s care. They were so shocked by the condition of the dog and the facility in general that they wrote out an affidavit and submitted it to the City Attorney. Here’s a link to an article about what they saw:
Note that this was the third time over a period of two and a half years that illegal conditions had been documented and at least the second time authorities had been notified.
The City Attorney took no action based on their evidence.
By late fall, according to eyewitnesses, Markwell was spending no more than a hour a day, sometimes less, at OAS. He had a part time employee who sometimes spent an hour or so at the warehouse. For a three week period prior to the disappearance of the dogs, no dog was allowed into a play yard. The police refused all requests to do wellness checks on the dogs. They refused to enter the property despite the smell. In late December, two police officers, as required by law, checked on the three dogs registered in Forks as dangerous. Those three dogs were housed near the front door. The police officers reported that the forty or so dogs within sight of the front door appeared to be healthy. They did not go upstairs to check on the dogs kept stacked in crates.
That visit was one of the first indications that Markwell was removing dogs from the building. With one hundred twenty-some dogs there, and forty downstairs, either Markwell had managed to jam eighty into the upstairs, or dogs were disappearing.
Then suddenly on December 21 all of the dogs were gone. Photos were released of the filthy, sinking interior of the warehouse.
Update Number Two: Comparison between a responsibly managed kennel, a hoarding situation, and conditions at OAS.
1. Responsible kennels are open to escorted visits and every dog can be viewed by visitors. Responsible rescuers allow visitors in to establish credibility, recruit volunteers and reassure donors of the beneficial nature of their facility. If conditions inside the facility had been acceptable, Steven Markwell could have ended the controversy about his facility in five minutes just by having an open house. However, in spite of his claims to have improved things, he held only two staged media events before falling back on his old habit of secrecy. It is characteristic of hoarders to be secretive.
2. Responsible sanctuaries keep the number of animals proportional to their donor base and their volunteer base. There should be enough volunteers to clean the entire facility daily, and to give animals scheduled exercise breaks for at least an hour per dog per day. A facility that claims to rehabilitate dogs needs to have sufficient volunteers to allow for individual rehab sessions for the dogs that need it. Markwell exceeded his donor and volunteer base to the point that it was not physically possible to meet the cleaning needs of the dogs. Nor is there any indication that Markwell engaged in any rehab activities. Markwell had at most two or three volunteers and they were only at OAS for an hour or so when they showed up at all. Hoarders collect dogs, but do not care for them.
3. No responsible rescue of sanctuary keeps dogs in crates. Animal hoarders and puppymillers keep dogs in crates. Longterm crating causes multiple health problems including atrophy of muscles, deformities of the skeleton, pressure sores and over grown toenails. Confinement for long periods also causes emotional and behavioral problems. This should be obvious.
4. No responsible rescue or sanctuary would have a dog just die on the premises. The manager would know the dog was terminal and would have the dog humanely euthanized for a diagnosed untreatable medical condition. The Forks City Attorney didn’t investigate the death of Barry, the dog that died next to a water bucket containing nothing but dry straw. Barry was not the only dog to die at OAS. At least five others are known to have died there, none of old age. Hoarders often have dead dogs on the premises and do not have good vet records.
5. A responsible rescue or sanctuary has an established schedule for when the facility is open and when which volunteers will be doing which tasks on which day. OAS has never been organized to that point. Hoarders are closed to all but a few individuals trusted by the hoarder.
6. Responsible rescues and sanctuaries stick to their mission statement and only accept dogs that fit within their mission. Markwell’s stated mission is to take in the dogs “no one else wants” or the dogs that other people would kill. He also has claimed that his dogs are dangerous or feral. The truth is he has a Yorkie, what looks like a poodle mix, a spaniel mix, several Eskimo dogs, two hound dogs and a collie mix on the premises. Fear the killer attack Yorkie! And people do want the dogs. Itsy, Leroy, Sonny and Sophie all have responsible rescues that would gladly take them in. Hoarders will take in any dog but won’t give them up voluntarily.
I’m a volunteer with a rescue kennel. The kennel is open from nine to two six days a week and from nine to eleven on Sundays. There are up to thirty dogs in the kennel. There are thirty two volunteers, five or six each day. The kennel master is on the premises five days a week. The BOD meetings are held monthly open to the public, on the premises. Every dog has a record of vet treatment. No dog has ever died on the premises. Dog that were euthanized were put to sleep at the vet’s office for specific untreatable medical conditions which are in the dog’s records. Crates are only used for transportation. The rescue has rehabbed feral dogs on numerous occasions. The rescue has also adopted out successfully dogs that nipped kids (they go to no-kid homes), dogs that are dog aggressive (they go to homes where they are the only dog) and dogs which have killed cats or smaller dogs (they go to a home without cats or smaller dog).
I’m not saying that Markwell is a hoarder. I am saying that there is no criteria by which OAS could be considered a responsibly managed kennel.
Here’s a link with more info about hoarders vs responsible kennels: http://vet.tufts.edu/...
This is the definitive link on animal hoarding in general:: http://vet.tufts.edu/...
Types of hoarders: There are roughly three kinds of hoarders. One type is just a nice person who tries to help and ends up overwhelmed. Such hoarders are easy to help because they want help. Another type is the sort of person who loves the feeling of being a rescuer, but isn’t really interested in the work involved in caring for an animal. They are addicted the thrill of acquiring animals over and over and let the rest of their responsibilities slide. They are hard to help because they don’t see themselves as needing help. The third kind is the worst kind: the exploitive or sociopathic hoarder. These hoarders see themselves as experts, vastly more knowledgeable than anyone else. They are very much the hero in their own eyes. While lacking empathy for people or animals, they are extremely focused on control and power.
Update Number Four: The Dogs.
Markwell claimed that his facility was for dogs that were dangerous. He justified his insistence on keeping the dogs on the grounds that they were too dangerous to place with anyone else and only he would keep the alive. And a few of the dogs are indeed highly problematic: the three that are registered with the City of Forks, the wolf, possibly the coyote mixes. However, most of the dogs incarcerated at OAS were guilty only of normal dog behaviors. Others are feral or unsocialized, but have never been placed with a person competent to rehabilitate them. Here are some of the dogs.
Doc: https://www.facebook.com/... Doc, a much loved pet, was sent to OAS after a nipping incident involving a jogger. Doc’s family visited him in the OAS yard frequently and regularly sent donor money for his care. Doc died at OAS, killed by another dog. Doc’s family was not notified promptly of his death.
https://www.facebook.com/... Leroy was sent to OAS for having a high prey drive and aggression toward other dogs. Markwell used Leroy as a prop for promoting OAS, but the photos show Leroy’s actual living conditions. Leroy was rescued from OAS last week and is now living in Seattle.
Itsy https://www.facebook.com/... Itsy’s story is particularly sad. She was born outside at the home of a hoarder. After the hoarder died, over one hundred dogs were rescued. Itsy was unsocialized and difficult to adopt out. She was sent to OAS based on Markwell’s claims that he provided dogs with a healthy place to live and with rehabilitation. In reality he confined her to a wire box. When the rescue that sent her to OAS asked for her back, Markwell threatened them, claiming that only he had made a lifetime commitment to care for her.
Sophie https://www.facebook.com/... Sophie was sent to OAS on the promise that she would be kept healthy and happy. She was a hard-to-adopt dog due to aggression to other dogs. After the photo came out showing her nearly naked from a flea infestation, Markwell claimed that she had been placed in a foster home. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Chuck https://www.facebook.com/... I don’t know Chuck’s story. I am posting his picture here because in the picture he is demonstrating “cage rage”, the result of excessive crating. Marwell promised rehab services for the dogs sent to him. To me, this is one of the most heartbreaking of all of the photos.
Snaps https://www.facebook.com/... Snaps was famous in Seattle back in 2009 for the tragedy of his story. He was exploited by teenagers who abused him and used him as a weapon in an assault on a woman. Snaps was scheduled to be euthanized, but was transferred to OAS to save his life. This is a link to an article written before conditions at OAS became public: http://b-townblog.com/...
One of the Eskimo dogs
https://www.facebook.com/... This poor, sad dog was rescued in 2009 from a hoarder who kept over one hundred dogs jammed into tiny filthy containers in her yard. Ironically, the rescuers sent the dog to OAS for more confinement in filthy conditions.
https://www.facebook.com/... One of the saddest stories from OAS: Pixie was turned into a municipal shelter when she was about one year old. She was sent to OAS for being mouthy, a common pitbull behavior. Markwell shut her up in a dark room and kept her confined here for several years. Pixie is now five years old, and has been isolated and neglected all of her life.
Update Number Three: Protests and legal actions
While the city officials hid behind their rationalizations, many other people stepped up to rescue the dogs. Facebook activists researched OAS and posted the results. Tamira Thayne flew out from Virginia to collect Sonny, a dog originally from Dogs Deserve Better. She stood for hours outside the warehouse every day for two weeks, but Markwell refused to meet with her or let her see Sonny. Instead he got a court order forbidding her to stand within 500 feet of his property. She fought the order in court. Meanwhile more people made the trek out to Forks to stand witness in front of the warehouse. Most of the time no one came to the warehouse to care for the dogs. On one of the rare occasions when Markwell made an appearance, he verbally abused one of the protesters and attacked her car. He was arrested. For a more detailed account of the protests read this link:
One of the lawsuits facing Markwell concerned Leroy, the dog aggressive to dogs but sweet to humans, who had been given to Markwell for fostering in 2009. Markwell claimed that he could not return Leroy because he was supposedly working with Leroy and didn’t want to interrupt the rehabilitation process. Just when this process was happening is a good question. At any rate the judge didn’t buy Markwell’s line, and Leroy was rescued on Friday.
Update Number Four: What is the matter with Forks?
When people see the pictures of the OAS dogs and realize that the city did not intervene on their behalf, the question is always, “What’s the matter with Forks?”
The very first comment I got when I published the first version of this post was a person from Forks who called this diary a “fabric of lies.” The commenter didn’t say what the lies were. The commenter presented no defense of OAS or of Markwell, just jumped right to attacking my credibility. This is a fairly common reaction from OAS supporters.
But it gets worse: there is anecdotal evidence of threats of violence toward and shunning of people who openly opposed OAS. Here’s some examples:
I have a friend who has friends in Forks. My friend lived in Forks years ago and would like to keep his connections to the town. However he is afraid to voice any opposition to OAS for fear of losing friendships.
Neighborhood people stopped to express support for the protests, but didn’t want to give their names. One young woman said that Steve Markwell carried a gun and made threatening statements. Several Forks residents expressed concerns for the safety of protesters. It was hard for reporters to find people willing to talk on record about OAS or Markwell.
Why does this little town have so many people who would leap to angry fact-free hostility in defense of a guy who has kept over one hundred dogs jammed into a small warehouse that stinks half a block away? (Two neighbors of OAS filed complaints with the city which were ignored). Why the defense of a guy who admits he has kept dogs confined to crates for years? Why the defense of a man who had a dog die on his premises, apparently of thirst? You can see why the “defense” of Markwell consists of attacking everyone else: there is no other defense.
I don’t know why people defend Markwell. What follows is speculation. Forks is a former timber town. It has been economically marginal for decades. There is a perception in Forks that the community’s economy was destroyed by outside environmentalists who favored the spotted owl over people. The downsizing of the timber industry left many people feeling like their community had been screwed over by outsiders.
Also the geography may contribute to the bunker mentality. Forks is on the far side of the Olympic mountains, cut off from the rest of the state. The nearest town is Port Angeles, accessible by some sixty miles of narrow winding road, or Hoquiam, accessible by even more miles of narrow winding road. Forks gets forgotten, left out. Politicians parachute in for media events and disappear until the next election year. Until Twilight came along Forks was important only to Forks, and nobody else cared about their troubles.
So there’s a strong sense of “We take care of our own.”
To some Forks residents protecting OAS is protecting their community. Sadly, their enabling has had the opposite affect.
Not everyone in Forks equates defense of their town with defense of OAS. For over two weeks protesters stood in front of the OAS building and the response from passersby was mostly favorable: seventy percent expressed approval of the protests. Neighbors dropped by to chat with protesters and tell stories about Markwell. They said that he was known to carry a gun, and was given to verbal confrontations with people. One neighbor said that Markwell took his dog and, in effect, held it for ransom. Another told a story about nearly being run over by him at a cross walk. This report from Seattle Dog Spot describes the OAS facility but also includes conversations with Forks residents who did not support OAS:
So what’s the matter with Forks? Nothing. Community members display the usual mix of opinions that one would find in any town that had been parasitized by a faux rescue: some supportive of the faux rescue, many against, and many confused, unsure or unaware.
The problem is the city government. Sadly for Forks, the community had weak leadership when they needed strength and smarts. The dogs could have been rescued a year ago but key community leaders failed miserably to take responsibly for enforcing the law. From start to finish the Mayor, the City Council, the City Attorney and former Democratic Party Chair Randazzo have shown themselves to be unable to make responsible decisions on the OAS issue. Every choice made was short-sighted, an attempt to find an easy way out. And when their bad choices became a matter of widespread public controversy, they doubled down, digging deeper and deeper the grave of their own reputations, taking their community’s reputation down with them. They could have been the heroes a year ago; instead they subjected the dogs to months and months of misery and subjected their community to months and months of negative publicity.
Forks authorities will claim that they have been victimized by outsiders, but they did themselves in. They changed Forks from the town of Twilight to the town of a Nightmare.
Update Five: Where are the dogs now?
Imagine a made-for-TV movie: beleaguered and unfairly maligned dog rescuer takes his dogs and flees across country in a semi truck to save himself from being killed by people who say mean things on Facebook, and to save the dogs from…something! The story breaks down if you think about the premise, of course. But I have a feeling that Steve Markwell, driving across country, may have had something like that going through his mind.
Of course, I’m just speculating, based on the dripfeed of info posted on the Peninsula News since Markwell’s departure on the 21rst: Steve Leaves Forks With the Dogs! Steve is Headed for Undisclosed Location! Steve Will Release Dogs Monday…No, Wait Tuesday!
Markwell’s departure was obviously a well-planned escape, organized over a period of weeks. There are indications that the local authorities knew of the plan and collaborated; after all, if Markwell left, they could all breath a sign of relief: Markwell and the dogs would no longer be their problem. The Guardians of Rescue, a reputable east coast rescue had been in behind he scenes talks with Markwell for several weeks, but were not party to the plan to suddenly pack up and leave.
Apparently after leaving Forks, Markwell phoned his contact with the Guardians and asked for help. Details of this conversation have not been released. The jist as reported in Peninsula News is that an agreement was made to meet at an undisclosed location and the Guardians would then help disperse the dogs to rescues for care and rehoming and placement. That gave the Guardians a few days to rush out to the undisclosed location and set things up before Markwell's arrival. It was Marwell who insisted on the secrecy.
Why did Markham decide to make this dramatic early morning departure? I don’t know. Running away may have looked like the best option to him. OAS was clearly circling the drain. Markwell did not have the resources to provide food, and even the Forks authorities couldn’t ignore a warehouse full of dead dogs. And with Leroy headed for a vet, and documentation of mistreatment about to surface, Markwell may have worried that the City Attorney would finally pull his head out of his ass long enough to file charges.
Markwell’s supporters claim that his flight with the dogs was necessary because Markwell was supposedly the target of death threats. It is quite likely that people have been saying mean things about Markwell; however, I don’t buy this as a reason for his departure. He’s a big man, reputed to carry a gun, and has a history of temperamental behavior; I don’t buy the claim that he had to flee for his life because people were saying mean things about him on Facebook.
From Markwell’s perspective, this truck drive across three states may be a heroic epic: a dramatic escape from his critics, fleeing with the dogs, to nobly turn the dogs over to Guardians of Rescue. Never mind that if he had cared for the dogs properly in the first place there would have been no need for all the faux heroics now. Never mind that it would have been a lot easier for the Guardians to rap up OAS and place the dogs if the job had been done from Forks.
I don’t believe for one second that Markwell was motivated by concern for the dogs because I can see no genuine concern for the dogs in his past behavior. On the contrary, he has shown himself to be remarkably callous; after all he lived in the OAS facility and was aware for years that the dogs there were underfed, miserable with fleas, and surrounded by filth. He had to have known that many of them were developing the behavioral and physical problems that come from excessive confinement in small spaces—cage rage, depression, perseveration, teeth grinding …The evidence shows that he lived right in the midst of suffering and did nothing about it for years .
I think that for Markwell the dogs were never anything but props. While he was promoting his sanctuary they were props to show what a uniquely wonderful guy he was to love dogs everyone else hated. Now they are props in the great drama of Markwell’s martyrdom, escape and triumph.
But for the people who sent dogs to Markwell, expecting him to provide them with a good life, those dogs are individuals. Pixie, born behind the eightball, in a shelter at one year old, only to spend the rest of her life in darkness and confinement. Doc, the family pet that was killed by another dog. Crockett the Anatolian Shepard who wore a path in the straw of his kennel from his endless perseverating in circles. Chuck, demented from confinement. The Eskimo dogs that escaped from one hell to be dumped into another. Bear, who died in the filthy straw of his kennel while Markwell slept just down the hall. And little Sophie…
It’s hard for me not to hate Markwell. If he hadn’t damaged so many lives, human and canine, if he showed any remorse or willingness to take resposniblity, I could feel sorry for him. He does not appear to be a functional person. He’s in his thirties at least and has no life partner, no real training, and obviously no management skills. He had a dream of a sanctuary, but spent his time acquiring dogs without setting up the funding or donors to support them. He failed to provide the special services which were supposed to be core to the sanctuary’s mission. He had plenty of chances to clean the place up, reduce the number of dogs, and provide better care for a smaller population, but he refused all help. After at least two years of documented illegal conditions at his facility, he blamed everyone but himself for his failure.
And Markwell’s flight didn’t help the dogs at all. He could have released them right from Forks to ARC or to the multiplicity of rescues in the Puget Sound/ Portland area. But that would have meant cooperating with people he saw as critics, and Markwell preferred to drag the dogs all over the country for days on end rather than to lose face in Washington state.
Excellent summary of Markwell’s flight and the planning behind it. http://www.seattledogspot.com/...
Latest update: Free at last
Markwell’s truck pulled into the undisclosed site on Christmas Eve. Prior to his arrival the Guardians of Rescue had been frantically preparing kennels to receive the dogs at great expense to their organization. They had a vet ready, a pallet of food, and accumulated other supplies. G of R is an east coast group and its members came out West to save the dogs at great inconvenience and expense to themselves.
They off loaded the dogs into kennels and have started the process of vetting them. They will build profiles of each dog to aid in placement; many of the dogs will need to go to rescues prepared to deal with the effects of longtime abuse and neglect, some will need to be placed in highly specialized settings: the wolf, for example. All of this would have been much easier from Forks, of course. The Guardians are predicting that it will take months to place the dogs.
Meanwhile a few pictures have emerged. The dogs look basically healthy, which doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been involved in rescuing dogs from situations like OAS, and the big smooth coated dogs won’t show much physical damage. The problems caused by excessive confinement in feces and pee aren’t going to show up in snap shots. The amount of damage will vary from dog to dog but could include: overgrown nails and damage to the joints of the feet, pee burns, lesions in the skin from matted fur, and yeast or other skin infections. The vet will also check for ground down teeth from perseverating, a neurotic behavior some dogs adopt due to the stress of confinement.
The main change is already evident: demeanor. The dogs in the police photos were either depressed and unresponsive, or desperate. The dogs in the kennels built by G of R look happy. http://www.komonews.com/...
So what can you do?
1. I am a Buddhist. Not a very good one, but I try. I am not posting this contact information in order to subject these men to hours of verbal abuse. Rather I hope that something good can come from this sorry mess. So I would appreciate it if you would contact these men and suggest that they could atone for their mistakes by supporting state legislation that would set standards of care for dogs in rescues and sanctuaries similar to the standards required for breeders. We could call it “Sophie’s Law” for the little Yorkie that disappeared. Washington’s anti-puppymill law is fairly good and could provide a template for an anti-fake rescue law or anti-hoarder law.
You could also send them a link so that they can make donations to G of R. After all, the Guardians are cleaning up their mess.
Matthew Randazzo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Forks City Council and City Attorney email@example.com
2. Contact Governor Inslee Ask for his support for legislation that would set standards for the care of dogs in rescies and sanctaries.
Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/...
3. Follow the story on Facebook OAS Life in the Sanctary. There is still hope that the surviving dogs will be rescued and when that happens money and resources will be needed very quickly. Keep in touch and be ready to offer what help you can.
Guardians of Rescue will need help caring for one hundred and twenty four neglected traumatized dogs. Donations here:
PLEASE GIVE. Thank you for reading this.
8:12 PM PT: TO CLEAR UP CONFUSION: Steve Markwell was in touch with the Guardians of Rescue behind the scenes starting about a month ago. GoR planned to help Markwell rehome dogs using Forks as a base. Secretly Markwell commissioned custom crates to be built in his semi truck. Then one morning he loaded up the dogs and took off. He called GoR about six hours later. I don't know why. They were willing to meet him in Arizona. Lots interesting details here: ofhttp://www.seattledogspot.com/....