Forks dog shelter critics plan protest, march on Thursday
By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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FORKS –– Critics of Steve Markwell's Olympic Animal Sanctuary are planning a protest Thursday (Nov. 14) to appeal to area law enforcement to have the shelter for dangerous dogs shut down.
As of Saturday, more than 500 people said on a Facebook page, http://tinyurl.com/pdn-oasprotest, that they planned to attend.
The page was set up to organize the protest aimed at getting law enforcement to force Markwell to give up the reported 125 dogs in the shelter at 1021 Russell Road, which is within the Forks city limit.
Protesters are scheduled to march from Tillicum Park to the Elks Lodge, 941 Merchants Road, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., which coincides with a forum and community dinner planned by the Forks Police Department.
Markwell houses the dogs — some of which were condemned by courts around the country to death — in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse so they will not be euthanized.
None of the dogs he has taken in are “realistically adoptable” because of their behavior, Markwell has said.
Rick Bart, administrator and de facto chief of the city's police force, said he has invited the protesters to come in to the forum, originally organized as a talk of crime in the community, for a discussion.
“I'm sure somebody was going to bring something up about it,” Bart said Friday.
“They've all got a range of issues with him.”
Slated to appear at the forum are Bart, Mayor Bryon Monohon, City Attorney and Planner Rod Fleck, Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Mark Nichols, Clallam County's chief deputy prosecutor.
Bart said a police car will escort the protest crowd from the park to the forum during what is forecast to be a rainy Forks evening.
Says no laws broken
In a written statement Saturday, Markwell said he will not be at the protest, stressing that he has not broken any laws.
“Fortunately, no amount of foot-stomping will change the fact that I have not broken the law,” he wrote.
“It would behoove these protesters to consider what they are really asking — for public officials to act outside of the law and take actions that will get a lot of dogs killed.
“If these people were to put half the energy they expend attacking me into doing something positive in the world, I imagine we would all find ourselves in a better place,” Markwell added.
Bart said he gets calls daily from people asking him to close the animal sanctuary and hand the dogs over to other rescue organizations.
Many of those calls, Bart said, come from people out of the area who have seen the sanctuary only as depicted on social media sites.
A Facebook page, “OAS — life inside the sanctuary,” contains pictures reportedly from the sanctuary along with thousands of comments calling for its closure.
A petition has been circulated to city, county and state officials demanding the sanctuary's closure.
Critics say Markwell is not providing the dogs with adequate or sanitary conditions and exercise.
Forks police investigated Markwell for possible animal-cruelty charges in October 2012. A citation for animal neglect was written but never issued.
Fleck said the violation, written because officers found a dog that may have been malnourished, would have been a misdemeanor.
Entered based on photographs
The city didn't pursue the charge, he said, because officers entered the sanctuary based only on photographs submitted by Markwell's critics.
“When was that picture taken? Where was that picture taken?” Fleck asked in October. “I'm not even sure we had probable cause to go in.”
Bart said Friday that Markwell “has got his lawyers, and we can't get into the place.”
In a Peninsula Daily News story last month, Markwell said the vocal criticism of his shelter has seriously impacted the donations he has primarily relied on to fund the shelter's operations.
He said then that he is the victim of a smear campaign based on “vendettas” from former volunteers.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: November 10. 2013 11:09PM