UPDATED JANUARY 1, 2014
Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs safe and settled in Arizona
Animal lovers have been watching closely the past week as the sad tale of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary began to unfold. The sanctuary in Forks, Washington came under fire by animal advocates for the alleged inhumane treatment of the dogs. While the story started to unfold, the dogs and sanctuary owner Steve Markwell disappeared. Click here for updated info. on the story.
UPDATED DECEMBER 20, 2013
I have been following protests going on in Washington involving an animal sanctuary called Olympic Animal Sanctuary in the City of Forks. On their website, the Sanctuary says, “The Olympic Animal Sanctuary takes care of dogs that have been turned down by all other shelters and organizations because they were deemed dangerous. Dogs that have severely injured people or killed other animals, feral dogs, wolf hybrids, and coyote hybrids – animals that simply aren’t welcome in our society anymore are welcomed at Olympic Animal Sanctuary.”
I have read numerous articles and have been following the Facebook page of Dogs Deserve Better who are involved in protesting the fact that this shelter isn’t being shut down by the City because of the suspected animal abuse going on inside. You can read one of the many stories here. They jumped into helping the situation about a month ago.
No, this isn’t happening in Grand Traverse County – or even in Michigan. But dogs and cats don’t know what boundaries are. And neither does animal cruelty.
I made a public records request to see if there were ever any investigations or inspections of this animal sanctuary. Regardless of whether the City of Forks has animal legislation or not, the State of Washington has animal cruelty laws and they must be adhered to. These laws are to be enforced by the City or County according to RCW 16.52.015 which you can read here.
To read the Forks Police investigation report please click here.
This PDF is 421 pages of photos and information on the sanctuary, including numerous findings of dead dogs; photos of unsanitary conditions; a Forks Police case report filed by a non-profit animal welfare organization against founder Steve Markwell; a report filed by Officer Julie Goode in November of 2012 after an inspection including an admission of Markwell only feeding the dogs three times a week (p. 112) and Goode telling him that the “living conditions of the entire building were bad and that I would possibly be bringing other departments such as code and health enforcement”; talk of a seizure that never materialized; an email that shows the Mayor knew about the dog case in November of 2012 (p. 146); a letter to the City from Stephen Markwell’s attorney contending that officer Goode’s visit was “harassment”; a statement by a visitor to the shelter from April of 2013 about concerns and observations (p. 228); various complaints filed by neighbors (p. 265); a communication in an email (p.292) that it’s “very important prior to us taking any physical action against the guy we meet with the Mayor. He is very concerned how the community will react and wants to make sure he has time to prepare the Council and others who he believes will support our suspect”; an animal cruelty report package submitted by a non-profit animal welfare organization (p. 390).
And still, the sanctuary remains open. But does the investigation? The photos of the dogs in crates without enough space to move around is one of many apparent State violations contained in this report. RCW 16.52.207 of the animal cruelty law states “an owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree…if they fail to provide the animal with necessary shelter; rest; sanitation; space or medical attention and the animal suffers any unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure.” (p. 160). The state’s prevention of cruelty to animals link is here.
The report filed by the animal welfare organization states that “on average, 100% of the dogs are fed twice a week and watered only once a week. They are never given dog food, but are fed a diet of raw meat, which is often left outside, unrefrigerated and is rotting by the time it is fed to the dogs. On average, 100% of the dogs do not have constant access to clean water. On average, 100% of the dogs are NOT taken out of their enclosures on a daily (and sometimes weekly) basis for exercise or just to go outside. On average, 100% of the dogs do not have access to necessary veterinary medical attention…” (p. 395)
The authorities in the City need to do what’s right for the animals and the taxpayers. It appears that these conditions have been going on a long time. How many more dead dog reports will be filed? I have contacted the County and they say they have no jurisdiction over the incorporated city of Forks. I also contacted the Washington Dept. of Agriculture regarding their enforcement of animal cruelty laws. I was contacted by Mr. Hector Castro, Communications Director who said, “…our agency doesn’t actually have the authority to pursue incidences of inhumane treatment of animals. Washington’s “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act” gives that authority to “law enforcement agencies and animal care and control agencies.” The Washington State Department of Agriculture is not defined as a law enforcement, animal care or animal control agency. We can help other agencies if asked, but we lack any direct authority in cases such as the one you have covered in your blog. Under current law, it’s the local agencies that have jurisdiction to investigate claims of inhumane treatment of animals.”
The City has received at least two offers from animal rescue organizations to evaluate the dogs and possibly rescue them from this sanctuary. There is no reason for them to euthanize any of the dogs without professional evaluations by people in the animal welfare industry.
Here is a link to the state animal laws: http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/animalhealth/lawsrules.aspx
And here are some more links about the story:
And for comprehensive coverage from quite some time ago up to very recently, here are some links to the KOMO 4 News stories on OAS:
OUR ORIGINAL LENGTHY INVESTIGATIVE REPORT (Sept. 23, 2013):
‘BEST FRIENDS’ TELLS KOMO 4 NEWS IT IS OPEN TO ACCEPTING OAS DOGS (Dec. 16, 2013):
THE FIRST PROTEST (Nov. 14, 2013):
THE FIRST LAWSUIT (Nov. 20, 2013):
STEVE MARKWELL GETS ARRESTED (Dec 12, 2013):
BRIEF TEXT-ONLY STORY ABOUT MARKWELL’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE’D LIKE TO TRANSFER DOGS TO BEST FRIENDS (Dec. 15, 2013):
Pet Friends Magazine is waiting for a comment from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary about the current protests and accusations regarding animal cruelty and will publish them if we are contacted.
WHO CAN YOU CONTACT?
* The next City Council meeting is on Monday, December 30th at 7:30 p.m. at Forks City Hall at 500 East Division Street. If you are a resident of the City of Forks (or the County of Clallam, this is your opportunity to speak up.) The agenda for the meeting will be made public by the close of business day on December 27th. Interested parties may visit www.forkswashington.org or contact City staff for a copy at 360-374-5412.
• The Mayor of the City of Forks is Bryon Monohon. The City of Forks City Council members, in addition to the Mayor, are: Michael Breidenbach, Bruce Guckenberg, Kevin Hinchen, John Hillcar, & Juanita Weissenfels. Although their individual information is not on the City’s website, you can call the main number at (360) 374-5412 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• If you have any questions regarding the animal cruelty laws in the state of Washington, you can contact Hector Castro, Communications Director at 360-902-1815 or you can email him here.