124 Dogs Transported to Arizona Now in Jeopardy; Are 'Unsafe' LA Animal Services' Pit Bulls Among Them?

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

On Dec. 28, a Mohave Valley Daily News article began: “HELP NEEDED.” It shows Dr. Sites of Mohave Valley Animal Clinic performing an exam on one of rescued animals that arrived last Thursday at a Golden Valley, Ariz., rescue sanctuary run by Rescue Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation (RUFFF).

A total of 124 dogs were reportedly transported from Washington state nearly 1,000 miles in the back of a semi-trailer driven by Steve Markwell, Founder and Director of Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, Wash., which is “currently being investigated by the police department for alleged abuse and neglect,” according to the report.

The trans-national nature of dog transporting becomes even more complex because “Guardians of Rescue, a non-profit organization in New York, reached out to RUFFF earlier this week for assistance in housing the animals while permanent homes were being located.”

Now they say they need kennels, dog houses, dog food, volunteers and, of course, donated funds to save the animals.


Brenda Barnette has not kept it secret that Los Angeles City shelter animals are regularly being transported directly to Washington — with an admitted 245 last year. And, of course, we are assured that they will all find wonderful homes.

However, Ms. Barnette lavished praise and even helped with a fundraiser for Mr. Markwell at Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) when she was Director of Seattle Humane Society, just before coming to Los Angeles to head Animal Services. We have to wonder how really discerning she is in distributing unwanted, unsafe, unadoptable animals from city shelters, which she is desperate to empty in order to appear “No Kill.”

Here is something that was written in the Seattle Humane newsletter when Barnette worked there:

Seattle Humane has already partnered with Olympic on several occasions, according to CEO Brenda Barnette. “The staff at Seattle Humane Society enjoys working with Steve. We are grateful that he has given sanctuary to some of our shelter dogs who had behavioral challenges making them unsafe for us to place out in our community.”

Shortly afterwards, OAS posted the following thanks to BB and Seattle Humane for helping with Olympic’s fundraiser:

The presentation at Seattle Humane on November 10 was a success, and we want to thank Seattle Humane CEO Brenda Barnette ... and all the staff and volunteers from Seattle Humane.

So, with this great mutual admiration, will we ever know if — or how many — Pit Bulls and other behaviorally challenged dogs from Los Angeles have become victims of the recent allegations by animal protectionists against OAS?

Here’s a further explanation of Steve Markwell’s work, as noted in the blog:

Olympic Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that specializes in the care and rehabilitation of dogs who are considered too dangerous to be adoptable.

And here is the lead story for the post “Come Meet the Man Who Saved Snaps”:

You know the stories of some of these animals — stories of dogs like Snaps, the Pit Bull goaded by a 15-year-old girl into attacking two women in SeaTac last June. Snaps is now living at Steve’s sanctuary, along with 30-40 other dangerous dogs.

And there was Abbey: “One of Markwell's first clients was a pregnant ex-fighting pit bull named Abby that terrorized the California town of Grapevine, in Kern County, for two weeks — despite having been shot — before Markwell was able to coax her into his truck.


Is it overly dramatic for caring Los Angeles pet owners and rescuers to wonder what is really happening to behaviorally challenged dogs that come into our Animal Services shelters and leave in the back of a truck for Washington and — until recently — for Canada?

Apparently Ms. Barnette’s judgment has not improved substantially, since just a few months ago she planned to institute a policy of allowing pregnant shelter dogs to have litters of puppies which she could sell to the pet shops in Los Angeles that are banned from selling commercially bred dogs due to an ordinance she promoted.

This ban was implemented at the same time Barnette’s daughter was apparently preparing to breed her Portuguese Water Dog. (Barnette’s daughter, Mary Alice Davis, works for Best Friends Animal Society, which called her a “responsible breeder.”)


On Dec. 29, Cat Smith of the Daily News wrote: “More than 100 dogs, and one python … arrived to their temporary home in Golden Valley. … The animals are the subject of a reported abuse and neglect case in Washington, where the owner of Olympia Animal Sanctuary is accused of housing them in deplorable conditions.”

Following are excerpts from that Daily News article:

In the past months, several Forks residents have picketed the facility in hopes the local police department would investigate multiple complaints about the organization.

An investigation was conducted by the Forks Police Department, but no charges have been filed against the owner, Steve Markwell.

The caged dogs were reportedly housed in traveling kennels, as well as in urine- and feces-infested bedding inside a warehouse-style building.

Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, has been a prominent figure since the allegations against Markwell were first reported by several news outlets in Washington.

“Our organization immediately began an open line with Markwell from the start and we told him our main concern was getting the dogs to a new home while he dealt with his legal matters,said Misseri. He trusted us.”

That was when Markwell loaded up the dogs and left OAS with the 124 dogs... Misseri says he convinced him to turn over custody of the dogs to the organization, and with no time to spare in finding a place for Markwell to unload the dogs, Misseri contacted Hillarie Allison, owner and operator of RUFFF.

“Hillarie (Allison) had first contacted us and told us that she’d be more than happy to house them while in transition, but that she did have some financial issues with keeping the sanctuary up, etc.,” said Misseri. Markwell arrived at RUFFF late Tuesday afternoon with all 124 dogs.

“[I]n the end we can officially say Markwell has signed over custody of the dogs …” said Misseri.

Two days later, on Saturday, a handful of volunteers from in and around the Tri-state, as well as several GOR volunteers, began unloading the dogs one-by-one.

“Most of the kennels/dog runs we have purchased lately are unreliable. We even contacted a fencing company, but they told us that it would be nearly three weeks for them to do the job due to prior job commitments. They are weak and the latches fall off or aren’t working properly and we have an urgent need for these because we want to have all the dogs out of the truck by mid-week,” [Misseri] said, adding that none of the dogs are in danger due to the bed of the truck being climate-controlled.

On Dec. 28, this alarming post appeared on the RUFFF Facebook page:

*UPDATE* We are only one third away from our goal. Please consider donating so we can continue saving lives.

CRISIS  EXTREME EMERGENCY! 300 animals stand to lose their home! Our lien holder has backed out of our agreement and our property will be put up for sale any day if we don't raise $15000.00 right away!... Most of our dogs and cats are elderly, many with chronic conditions, that no one wants to adopt. I have contacted all the Big Guys in rescue (i.e. Best Friends, HSUS, etc.) and they don't want to help either…We need everyone's help if these precious lives are to be saved … Please share far and wide  someone, somewhere must be able to help! (3 photos)

With a truckload of dogs — some of which will have been inside the same kennel for a week by the completed unload, dog runs and kennels with locks that fall off or don’t work, and inadequate fencing to contain the type of dogs Mr. Markwell indicates he saves, we must all hope that this ends without more tragedy — and that Golden Valley and the surrounding communities do not find themselves the center of an even greater dog crisis.

Read Also: L.A. Shelter Dogs Transported to Canada: Rescue or Ruse?

L.A. Animal Services GM Brenda Barnett Says Shelters Need Puppies to Increase Revenue

Sources: Facebook, Mohave Daily News