'No Kill' Shelter Transports 124 Dogs, 'Many with History of Violence Toward Humans and Dogs,’ to AZ-NV Border

| by Denise A Justin

“A truck carrying 124 dogs driven from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks [Washington] by the shelter's director, Steve Markwell, reached an Arizona-Nevada border dispersal point at 2:30 p.m. today,” reported the Peninsula Daily News on Dec. 24.

Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, a New York-based rescue organization that is organizing the care and dispersal of the dogs to a variety of rescue groups, announced: “Steve has landed. They are unloading the truck.”

“They are alive,” Misseri said at about 3:15 p.m., adding that the dogs had not been counted or examined yet. Misseri has declined to identify the exact location, according to the News report. He said that he wants to talk with Markwell and representatives of rescue organizations before he releases the location.

The News report adds, “Rescue organizations equipped to handle the dogs, many of which have a history of violence toward humans and dogs, are asked to contact Guardians of Rescue.”

Does this indicate that the orderly, pre-arranged border dispersal in Mr. Markwell’s announcement may need some adjustment? What does one do with 124 “violent” dogs? Who would want them other than dog fighters?

The addition of 124 dogs to the already pet-overpopulated states of Arizona and Nevada is in itself disturbing. But even more so in view of the thousands of dogs that are transported — mainly from large municipal shelters — from California to Washington each year with the promise that they all found “forever homes.” Apparently this group of 124 did not.

Does the reverse transport from Washington to California indicate that all is not well in the North East “paradise” California rescuers and shelters have embraced, and to which they have shipped thousands of stray, relinquished and unadopted dogs without records of their fate?

“It will be quite some time before we get everything under control,” Misseri said.

The location of the remote meeting spot has been described as being “an hour from anywhere,” the report states.

Markwell reportedly departed Forks, Wash., early Saturday morning. He had an estimated 124 dogs in cages constructed in a climate-controlled semi-trailer and drove more than 1,000 miles to the meeting point, Misseri said.

That would seem to indicate the dogs have been caged in a truck without exercise or the opportunity to relieve themselves for more than 80 hours — arriving late Tuesday afternoon. How would you safely unload 124 dogs — many violent — for potty breaks? Is this an example of lawful and “humane transport?”

Eight Guardians of Rescue affiliate volunteers from California spent two days setting up 10-foot by 10-foot kennels for the dogs, the PDN article reports. And according to Markwell, “They also had several pallets of dog food, and prepared a veterinary inspection station, where every dog will receive a full veterinary exam.”

Protestors had been picketing Olympic Animal Sanctuary for about three weeks, according to reports.

A Dec. 22 PDN report confirms comments on Facebook: “Critics say dogs at Olympic Animal Shelter lack proper care.”

Markwell denied their claims.

The report also states, “One of Markwell’s major donors is suing him, alleging that he has failed to use her $50,000 donation to move the dogs out of the warehouse as she says he promised.”

Officials of Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah, said Thursday they would take or find homes for the dogs at the sanctuary if Markwell “agrees to accept help from all willing and qualified rescues, and if he agrees not to take in any more dogs at his existing facility or any other.”

Barbara Williamson, Best Friends’ spokeswoman, reportedly stated Saturday that her organization had not been contacted by Markwell.

“We have seen the news reports that Mr. Markwell packed up the Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs and left his facility on Saturday morning.”

“We have no information on Mr. Markwell’s intended destination,” Williamson wrote in an email, according to the Peninsula Daily News. “We remain concerned about the dogs in his care.”

Markham’s decision to remove the dogs may have been precipitated by a judicial decision rendered shortly before.

On Dec. 20, a PDN article states, “Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer ruled Friday that Steve Markwell’s Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks must return LeRoy, one of 125 dogs at the controversial sanctuary, to the Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation.”

The exchange was set for Friday evening at Forks City Hall.

In 2009, AARF asked Mark well to take in LeRoy, a pit bull. The dog was being aggressive with other animals in their care, he previously told the Peninsula Daily News.

Rohrer ruled Markwell violated the 2009 contract that established Markwell as the dog’s foster caregiver by not giving the dog back when the Seattle-based AARF asked on Nov. 4. He ruled the foster agreement never transferred ownership of LeRoy to Markwell.

“Markwell announced last week plans to close his sanctuary at 1021 Russell Road in Forks and find homes for the dogs with the help of other national animal rescue agencies,” reported the Pennsylvania Daily News.

Critics say dogs are being kept in inhumane conditions and lack proper care, food or water.

Markwell has repeatedly denied that the dogs have been mistreated in any way. He said he wants to shut down OAS and transfer the dogs to other rescue groups.

Since 2008, Markwell has been taking in “bad dogs,” many of them ordered to be euthanized by courts around the country. His belief, he has said, is that they should be given a place to live out the course of their natural lives.

The following is excerpted from the Dec. 22 report by Peninsula Daily News:

Robert Misseri, president of Smithtown, N.Y.-based Guardians of Rescue, said Markwell contacted him shortly after leaving Forks about finding a place to take the dogs.

The fact Markwell fled right before Christmas makes the task of lining up new homes for the dogs more difficult, Misseri said.

Misseri said Saturday he was talking with two shelters; one in Arizona and one in California.

“The game has totally changed,” Misseri said. “He is in that vehicle with no destination as of yet, simply because he feels his life was threatened.”

“The goal was to find a place where Markwell could take the truck, park it and unload the dogs so representatives from animal rescue agencies across the country could come take the dogs to new homes.

“[Markwell] has to realize that these animals are going to go to people he might not approve of, but he's past the point of being able to choose,” Misseri said.

“Now our goal is to do everything possible to ensure these dogs don’t get put down.”

The sanctuary’s motto: “We save dogs you’d rather see dead,” the Peninsula Daily News reports. “The animals reprieved to his care were housed in a 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse.”

Sources: Peninsula Daily News, (2), (3)