Drives net more than 1,000 pounds of food for embattled Olympic Animal Sanctuary
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in this 2012 photo, Steve Markwell of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary stands next to Juno the Great Dane while talking about rehabilitating abused animals during a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS –– A week after 18 protesters marched through the city demanding officials shut down Olympic Animal Sanctuary, groups in Forks and Olympia have organized drives to deliver food to Steve Markwell’s shelter for dangerous dogs.

“Our goal is to do what we can to support Steve and take care of the dogs,” said Katherine Davis, one of the organizers of the Forks food drive for the shelter at 1021 Russell Road.

As of Saturday, drives in Olympia and Forks had come up with 1,143 pounds of donated dog food for the sanctuary.

Markwell brought back hundreds of pounds of bagged dog food to Forks from Olympia on Friday night.

“I’m happy to have it. I’m real happy to have it,” Markwell said Saturday.

“With all the bad PR — the protesting and everything else — I haven’t been getting the donations to buy what they need.”

Markwell was investigated but not cited for animal cruelty charges by Forks police in October 2012.

With pictures taken from the police report and others from a former volunteer, an international campaign to shut Markwell down has spread through social media over the past year.

Critics submitted a petition signed online by hundreds in June. Local officials have said they receive multiple daily calls for action.

Other animal rescue organizations have offered to take in the dogs, opponents say, but Markwell, who believes the dogs should not be killed, said he fear others might euthanize the dogs.

Although he brought back hundreds of pounds of dog food, Markwell said most of it was put out in bowls for the 128 dogs in his shelter Saturday.

“It may not all be eaten today, but it’s pretty much going to all be put out today,” he said.

Other volunteer efforts also have provided Markwell with supplies for his sanctuary.

A friend of his who recently got married requested donations of food bowls, blankets, large plastic tubs and cleaning supplies for her bridal shower that she then gave to the sanctuary.

“This all means a lot. This all helps a lot,” he said. “If more people were to try to help out rather than criticize, there wouldn’t be anything to criticize.”

Markwell has been blasted by those who say he is neglecting and abusing the animals under his care.

Since 2006, he has kept “dogs you’d rather see dead” in his shelter. Most of the dogs have been condemned to death by courts around the nation and have behavior issues that mean they are essentially unadoptable, Markwell has said.

Eighteen people marched through the streets of Forks in Nov. 14 carrying protest signs with photos they said depicted dogs from the sanctuary.

They spoke that evening with city officials at a community meeting about crime.

“People can come here and protest, but that does nothing productive to help the dogs live better,” Davis said.

Davis said media attention of the protests left many residents feeling their city was portrayed in a negative light.

“And that’s not what we are,” she said. “We’re an amazing community that pulls together and helps each other.

“And we’re really tired of this negative attention that doesn’t help anybody’s situation.”

The protest and recent controversy swirling around the sanctuary have alerted many in the community about Markwell’s sanctuary, Davis said.

The donation drive for food for Markwell’s reported 128 dogs — most of which have been condemned to death by courts around the country — began with a Facebook character known as “Olympia Memes.”

“We just call her Oly,” Davis said.

On Nov. 18, the author of the Olympia Memes page posted a call for donations of straw and food to the site’s more than 23,000 followers.

The call said the protestors have damaged Markwell’s ability to raise donations to care for his dogs.

“They have literally cut him off at the knees, playing off and manipulating the public’s sympathies as they paint him out to be a dog abusing, money hungry monster,” the author wrote.

The Peninsula Daily News attempted to contact the site’s author but did not get a response.

Donation points are at Olympic Northwest Veterinary Services, 410 Bogachiel Way in Forks, and at Eastside Big Tom’s restaurant at 2023 E. Fourth Ave. in Olympia.

The drive is set to extend through Saturday.

The Forks group plans to raffle off baskets of dog supplies to raise funds for Markwell’s sanctuary.

Tickets will be sold at upcoming Forks High School basketball games and at Forks Outfitters, 950 S. Forks Ave., Davis said.

She said Friday a date has not been set for the raffle drawing.

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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: November 23. 2013 6:12PM
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