Olympic Animal Shelter pit bull given to Seattle group after court hearing
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Christi Baron/Forks Forum
Leroy, the pit bull, is petted by unidentified handlers Friday night as the dog is placed in the back of a vehicle in Forks for transportation to Seattle.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES –– A pit bull named Leroy was turned over to the Seattle-based Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation after a judge ruled against Steve Markwell, operator of the controversial Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, on a contract issue.

The transfer was made Friday night, only hours before Markwell told the Peninsula Daily News on Saturday that he had loaded the rest of the dogs in shelter into a semi trailer and was driving to a location he would not specify.

AARF put the dog under the OAS's care in 2009.

“No more crates for Leroy. Except for in the car on the drive,” said an “overjoyed and relieved” Heather Enajibi, AARF president.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer ruled Friday in the county courthouse in Port Angeles, about 65 miles from Forks, that Markwell violated a 2009 contract that established Markwell as the dog's foster caregiver by not giving the dog back when AARF asked Nov. 4.

Rohrer said the foster agreement never transferred ownership of Leroy to Markwell. Leroy was one of 125 dogs Markwell said he had at the shelter at Olympic Animal Sanctuary at 1021 Russell Road.

Markwell sent a text message to the PDN after delivering Leroy to Enajibi in the rain outside Forks City Hall on Friday night.

“I bled for that dog. I have scars from that dog,” he wrote. “I gave him four years when AARF wouldn't even give him a few days, and now they are using him for some cheap publicity. Shame on AARF and shame on Heather Enajibi.”

Markwell cried after giving Leroy to Enajibi.

The dog appeared healthy and friendly.

“This day has been a long one, mentally and emotionally draining, but we couldn't be happier!” AARF said on its Facebook page at 11:13 p.m. Friday.

“We still have a long road ahead, but this is a great new beginning for Leroy and we hope that you continue to follow his journey.”

There was no report on the AARF Facebook page about the dog's condition.

Enajibi said Leroy has a new home where he will be safe, but would not disclose that location.

AARF asked Markwell to take in Leroy in 2009 because the dog was aggressive with other dogs in AARF's care, Markwell previously told the PDN.

Enajibi asked for Leroy's return after seeing photos allegedly taken inside OAS that have been circulating on a Facebook campaign to have the shelter shut down for the past year-and-a-half.

She said pictures showed a dog she identified as Leroy with his “ribs protruding” in an enclosure “full of what appears to be feces, a bowl of dirty water, and a wooden wall appears heavily clawed or chewed.”

Critics say dogs at OAS lack proper care. Markwell has repeatedly denied that the dogs have been mistreated in any way.

Conditions at OAS were not part of the judge's deliberations.

Rohrer was formerly a District Court judge in Forks.

Markwell listened to Friday's hearing by phone. He did not testify and made no comments.

“Is there some reason OAS doesn't want to return this dog?” Rohrer asked Markwell's attorney, Derek Medina of Port Angeles.

“Why does he want to have the dog? It's his dog,” Medina said. “It's going to be ripping it out of its home.”

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

Forks Forum Editor Christi Baron contributed to this report.

Last modified: December 21. 2013 6:29PM
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