49 former Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs still in need of homes; 75 canines adopted
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Boss, a Great Pyrenees, greets Janice Miller of the National Great Pyrenees Rescue earlier this month at the Arizona emergency shelter that has housed the former Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs since Dec. 24. Guardians of Rescue

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

GOLDEN VALLEY, Ariz. –– Animal rescue agencies quickly adopted 75 dogs from Steve Markwell’s former Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, but interest in taking in the remaining 49 dogs is slowing, said Robert Misseri, president of New York-based Guardians of Rescue animal welfare group.

“The bulk of the dogs went out, and the groups we knew would come forward came forward,” Misseri said.

“But this is still going to be a long haul. What we don’t want is out of sight, out of mind.”

Misseri’s group has been caring for the dogs at a shelter set up on land owned by Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation in Golden Valley, Ariz., since Markwell arrived there with the dogs in a 53-foot tractor trailer Dec. 24.

“We’re very grateful to the people that have stepped up so far, but we need some more help, so we still need more people to step up,” Misseri said.

Markwell had come under heavy fire from animal welfare groups around the country who alleged he was not taking adequate care of the dogs.

Dozens of rescue organizations from all across the United States came to Arizona to take in the dogs.

Misseri said the animal welfare community found the dogs homes as quickly as they could.

“Some groups are taking two, three, four dogs,” he said. “One group even chartered an airplane to come in and get a dog.”

“Considering we’re being very selective in who these dogs go to, I’m pretty impressed with how this has gone.”

No dogs have been adopted by individuals. Misseri said groups that offered to take in the dogs were all vetted to ensure they had the resources to provide the dogs with proper levels of care.

“These are not just puppies from down the road,” he said.

“A lot of these dogs had some serious problems, and we needed to make sure they would be able to have access to behaviorists and therapists and any veterinary care they may need.”

Several organizations were denied dogs because they didn’t have adequate resources, he added.

But the process of finding homes for the remaining 49 dogs has slowed down.

The remaining dogs are now being cared for exclusively by Guardians of Rescue staff, Misseri said.

Volunteers helped feed and look after the dogs initially, but Misseri said the remaining dogs can be managed more efficiently by experienced staff.

“We’re only allowing staff on the property now,” Misseri said.

“Training volunteers to help, it just — it slows the whole system down.”

The dogs are being fed twice daily. Misseri said a large load of food was received after the dogs arrived in Arizona.

He estimated they have enough food to last another two weeks.

“Those are two needs now: money for food and more people to step up and take in the dogs,” Misseri said.

Once the dogs are adopted, Guardians workers will shift their focus from the current primary care mode to traveling to shelters that adopted the Forks dogs to see how they are being cared for.

On Dec. 14 of last year, after weeks of protests outside his sanctuary — a 5,100-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road — Markwell announced he would close the sanctuary and work with Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah, to find the dogs new homes.

Saying he was “desperate for help” and scared for his safety because he received threats after saying he would close the shelter, Markwell packed the dogs in crates he had built in the semitrailer and left Forks on Dec. 21, eventually ending up in Arizona with Misseri’s help.

Markwell has not spoken publicly since.

The dogs remained in the semi trailer while Guardians staff and volunteers built cages and gathered food on the desert property.

Misseri said the immediacy of having the dogs in a makeshift camp sped up what would have otherwise been a lengthy process of distributing the dogs.

“These are adoptions that could have taken two years,” Misseri said.

“But in this situation, it just came down to speed. The quicker we can get them established into forever locations, the better.”

Misseri said he has not heard from Markwell in weeks and had no idea where he went after leaving the Arizona property.

Markwell has not returned calls from Peninsula Daily News requesting comment since Dec. 21, the day he left Forks with the dogs.

Markwell faces a bench warrant issued Jan. 2 for failing to appear in court on a charge of malicious mischief for allegedly kicking the car of a protester outside his sanctuary Dec. 10.

The truck and trailer in which he and the dogs arrived in Arizona are still on site, Misseri said.

“I’m sure when he needs it, he’ll make arrangements to come and get it,” Misseri said. “We have no interest in keeping the truck.”

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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: January 19. 2014 6:33PM
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