Owner of Forks dog sanctuary freed from jail on own recognizance; due in court today in custody session for Leroy the pit bull
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Pickets stand outside in the Forks rain in front of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (background).

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — The executive director of the embattled Olympic Animal Sanctuary was arrested Thursday after he allegedly kicked the car of one of the protesters who have been picketing his operation at 1021 Russell Road.

“I'll give them that victory,” Steve Markwell said of his morning arrest after being released from Forks municipal jail.

“But I know that's not what they want. I know they want me to be locked up forever.”

Shortly after Markwell's arrest, an anti-harassment order granted by Forks District Court Judge John Doherty against two protesters was dropped after Markwell did not appear for a hearing to extend the order.

Markwell opened Olympic Animal Sanctuary as a home for dangerous dogs that have been either ordered euthanized by courts around the country or who are too vicious to be adopted.

He said Wednesday night the sanctuary had 125 dogs inside. In previous interviews, he had reported 128 dogs.

Outside, as many as a dozen protesters picketed in front of the shelter, a 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse in which Markwell keeps the dogs throughout the day.

The pickets demand that he allow inspectors inside to report on the health of the dogs.

Markwell was booked on a charge of malicious mischief in the third degree at around 7:30 a.m.

He was released on his own recognizance.

According to Police Administrator Rick Bart, police were called after Markwell began to yell at Maggie McDowell, a protester and animal activist from Seattle who had been in front of the sanctuary since 5:30 a.m.

McDowell said she left her BMW sport utility vehicle parked in front of the sanctuary to use the restroom at a neighbor's house.

When she returned, she told the Peninsula Daily News, she saw Markwell looking into her vehicle.

After she remotely unlocked the vehicle's doors, she said, Markwell noticed her and began to yell before kicking the SUV.

Forks Officer Mike Rowley was headed to inspect the scene at about that time, Bart said, and arrested Markwell.

Doherty granted McDowell a protection order against Markwell shortly after 10 a.m.

She was protesting in his driveway again shortly after noon.

Doherty at 11 a.m. dismissed two anti-harassment orders Markwell had against protesters Tamira Thayne and Robin Budin after Markwell failed to appear for a hearing to extend the orders for the next year.

“If he doesn't care to show up, then I'm going to dismiss this case without prejudice,” Doherty said.

Thayne, founder and CEO of Smithfield, Va.-based Dogs Deserve Better, was arrested Dec. 6 for violating the order Doherty had issued the previous day.

Thayne's and Budin's attorney, Adam Karp of Bellingham, then asked Doherty to strike the order and issue a decree that Markwell pay the women $10,000 and attorney's costs, claiming Markwell got the no-contact orders against the pair as a ploy to stop them from protesting, a First Amendment right.

Doherty disputed whether or not Karp had properly signed documents needed to enter that claim, known as an anti-SLAAP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit.

Karp said he intends to refile the paperwork for Thayne and Budin, and ask the judge to consider it again.

In other legal action regarding Olympic Animal Sanctuary, Markwell is scheduled to appear in Clallam County Superior Court today for a show-cause hearing in a suit filed to compel him to return a pit bull named Leroy to a Seattle-based animal rescue organization.

Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation filed a civil suit Nov. 19 to ask the court to order Markwell to return the dog, saying Markwell violated the terms of a 2009 foster arrangement by not providing the dog “adequate and humane” care.

Karp also represents the Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation.

Markwell said the foundation asked him to keep the dog permanently.

Today's hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. before Judge Erik Rohrer at the courthouse in Port Angeles.

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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 12. 2013 11:31PM
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