Lawmen in Forks confronted by dog shelter protester after Chamber of Commerce luncheon
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Forks Police Administrator Rick Bart, right, speaks with Maggie McDowell, one of the animal activists protesting the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, following Wednesday’s Forks Chamber of Commerce luncheon at JT’s Sweet Stuffs. —Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — City Police Administrator Rick Bart and Sheriff Bill Benedict reiterated Wednesday that they have no cause to investigate Steve Markwell’s dangerous-dog shelter in Forks.

Benedict and Bart were the featured speakers at the Forks Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon meeting at JT’s Sweet Stuffs.

Afterward, they spoke with Maggie McDowell and Victoria Shutts, two animal-advocate protesters who have been picketing the dog sanctuary, a 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road, and Forks City Hall for the past week.

Olympic Animal Sanctuary has been the target of a social media campaign calling for its closure as photos — allegedly from former volunteers and a November 2012 police investigation — have circulated around the Internet.

Protests began Dec. 3 when Tamira Thayne and Robin Budin of Virginia-based Dogs Deserve Better traveled to Forks to get back a chow mix named Sonny from Markwell.

Bart told McDowell he has no probable cause to go into the sanctuary to investigate the health of the dogs despite hundreds of requests he said he has received to do so.

“I get people all the time who want me to ignore the Constitution and kick down his door,” Bart said.

Bart reported that a veterinarian inspected the 128 dogs in Markwell’s sanctuary last week and found seven in need of and receiving medical attention.

Benedict said any action would have to originate from the Forks Police Department because the shelter is within city jurisdiction.

In a heated exchange with McDowell, Bart said he has been the subject of an onslaught of phone calls both to the Police Department and to his personal phones.

“They’re calling me at midnight and threatening my life,” Bart said.

“And it’s continuous.”

Mayor Bryon Monohon and Rod Fleck, city attorney/planner, both said Wednesday their offices have received near-constant phone calls from around the world urging them to close the place.

“We’ve done what we can do,” Fleck said. “We’re bound by this thing called the law.”

Bart also said phone calls are being placed to ordinary citizens of Forks.

“We had an 86-year-old woman come in this morning and report a threatening phone call,” Bart said.

Markwell has said the campaign to shut down his sanctuary was begun by a former volunteer who had a personal vendetta against him.

McDowell said Wednesday her group and the others visiting Forks to protest are only concerned about the well-being of the dogs.

“This is not a vendetta. Our only concern is for the dogs,” McDowell said.

She also told Bart the protesters are not harassing local residents.

“I cannot control how people react to this critical, tragic hoarding situation,” McDowell said.

Thayne and Budin reportedly met Wednesday with Mark Nichols, Clallam County’s chief deputy prosecuting attorney; Undersheriff Ron Peregrin; and the sheriff’s animal control officer, Tracy Kellas, at the county courthouse in Port Angeles.

Nichols said he explained that the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was forwarded an investigation report from police but decided there was not enough evidence to go forward with any possible charges.

Forks also decided that evidence from the Police Department’s November 2012 investigation did not show enough to pursue criminal charges.

A citation alleging animal cruelty was written but never issued.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 11. 2013 6:42PM
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