A few days ago we reposted a video, which was first posted in 2011, that seemed to have a good and noble message: that dogs kept chained and tied up can get aggressive and unwieldy because tethering a dog is not healthy, as dogs who are left alone outside get territorial, lonely, anxious, stir crazy and eventually turn aggressive when they have no socialization or stimulation. With this article we wanted to bring to attention that it is not necessarily a dog’s innate personality that makes it dangerous and mean, but the situation it is in or the abuse it has suffered.
The video itself had no information attached to it stating the name of the man in the video, so no further research into who posted it was done, but some of our loyal readers have since recognized him and pointed out that he is Steve Markwell, the man who ran the Olympic Animal Sanctuary for dangerous dogs, and who was outed to be a dog abuser at the center of a scandal since 2013. We would like to apologize for unknowingly spreading media which painted him as a noble man who rescued and rehabilitated dogs, as he was clearly the opposite.
While the video itself has a noble message, it was made by an animal abuser and a fraud, and may or may not even be rooted in truth. Markwell lied and covered up a lot of other bad behavior, mistreatment, dog deaths, horrible abusive conditions and stealing donations which were obviously never used for the dogs. He was found to be hoarding over 124 dogs in his warehouse “sanctuary” in Forks, Washington, who were kept in despicable conditions. Photos taken by former volunteers reveal starving, boney, dirty dogs, living in small cages or crates piled up on top of one another with straw soaked in excrement. They were apparently fed only twice a week (some not even that often, as one dog had split skin due to lack of protein from not eating for two months), and did not always have access to any water at all, never mind clean water. One St. Bernard was found and photographed by a volunteer, dead next to a dry water bowl.
Once locals found out what was happening inside the OAS, and how bad the conditions were, they protested and signed petitions and tried to convince officials to do something about it, but the authorities gave various excuses, such as lack of proper laws, lack of funds in event of a countersuit, and not being able to use the photos and videos because they were “too old” (they were over a year old and were therefore not usable in court). At the time, Forks lacked “laws with teeth”, as local laws did not used to prohibit or regulate the number of dogs someone could have in their care.
After weeks of intense online and in-person protests (and no police movement), last December Markwell loaded all the dogs up into a trailer and voluntarily drove them to Arizona, where he turned them all over to Guardians of Rescue, the New York-based rescue organization that led the effort to find new homes for the OAS dogs.
They were taken to a makeshift shelter in the Arizona desert, where they began to be socialized and made ready for adoption, as many had been sent to the OAS becuase they had been deemed unsafe for adoption, and that was before the abuse they suffered there.
Robert Misseri of Guardians of Rescue said of the task, “It was a monster undertaking. These are not easy dogs to adopt out,” because of their aggressive nature and emotional problems. Many dogs were taken in by other rescue organizations who worked to rehabilitate them into happy, healthy, adoptable pets.
The good thing to come from the situation is that Forks has worked on their laws, and now require people with a “collection” of animals to register them with the city and have a veterinarian inspect them. Hopefully this will enable police to collect information about the animals’ welfare and prevent this from happening again in the future.
As for justice, according to this article by Attorney General Bob Ferguson , “On April 3, Clallam County Superior Court Judge George Wood ruled that Markwell committed 48 violations of state fundraising laws when he failed to register his charity with the Secretary of State and failed to properly account for how he spent at least $360,000 in donations. He is now facing more than $100,000 in fines and legal fees.” So even though he still has never been charged with animal abuse, and still lives at the same location of the OAS in Forks, and still unfortunately has a few pet dogs, but since they are considered “personal pets” they are not required to be licensed by the city. In this article on the Peninsula Daily News he admits “Some are, some aren’t,” when asked whether his dogs are now licensed. Why Forks is allowing him even near any animals, especially multiple dogs, is beyond me, as he should obviously not be allowed to be in charge of the welfare of other living creatures.
On a happy note, most of the dogs have now been rehabilitated and adopted! There is a Facebook page called OAS – Life Inside The Sanctuary where there are updates on all the adopted rescues and info on the dogs who are still awaiting adoption. Some are still at the temporary shelter in Arizona and need homes! If you’d like to adopt one you can see them on the Facebook page and email Dori at: Dori@guardiansofrescue.org
There is also a Protest OAS Facebook group with over 6000 members that you can join, for more photos, stories and updates.
1. seattledogspot.com 2. OAS – life inside the sanctuary Facebook Page 3. The Ferguson File 4. Peninsula Daily News 5. Komo News 6. Komo News expose on the “Sanctuary of Sorrow” 7. Seattle Dogspot 8. Protest OAS FB group