'Not fast enough,' protesters of dog shelter say of plans to move animals, close
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The sole employee of Steve Markwell's Olympic Animal Sanctuary, identified only as Dane, stands in the sanctuary's parking lot in Forks as protesters from around the country continue to picket in the driveway. —Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — Critics of Steve Markwell's dog shelter said their protests outside the pink warehouse that currently houses the dogs will continue despite his announcement late Saturday that he will work with another dog rescue agency to find new shelter.

“It's not fast enough,” Maggie McDowell, one of the protest organizers, said.

Markwell issued an email statement Saturday afternoon that said he plans to work with Best Friends Animal Society, a dangerous-dog shelter that operates on 3,700 acres of land in Kanab, Utah, to have that organization take in the 125 dogs currently inside his 4,000-square-foot warehouse at 1021 Russell Road.

A Best Friends spokeswoman said Sunday that her organization seeks further information from Markwell.

And protesters such as McDowell said the Best Friends option will not come soon enough to ease the demonstrators' concerns about the dogs inside the building.

“This is a critical situation. These dogs are unnecessarily suffering, and immediate action is needed to get them out of there,” McDowell said.

“Law enforcement officials and the city of Forks and Clallam County know there are other organizations willing to take in these dogs. They need to enforce the laws and unwind this quickly.”

City officials have repeatedly said they have no cause to investigate the shelter.

Police did investigate the sanctuary in November 2012, but there was no citation.

Protesters have demonstrated in front of the sanctuary with picket signs and megaphones since Dec. 3.

McDowell has been there from dawn to dusk since last Wednesday, including all day Saturday.

“And the only person I've seen go in there in the 9 hours I've been here today [Saturday] is Steve Markwell. He went inside for four minutes,” she said.

Forks District Court Judge John Doherty granted McDowell a restraining order against Markwell on Thursday after he kicked her vehicle outside the sanctuary that morning.

Markwell on Friday told the Peninsula Daily News that he and his workers have been tending the dogs overnight to avoid the protesters.

“Because of the protesters making noise and upsetting our animals and due to the continued threats to break into the building, we are forced to spend more time than we'd like guarding the property instead of working with the dogs,” Markwell said in a text message to the PDN.

“But the dogs are being cared for.”

Markwell opened Olympic Animal Sanctuary to take in dogs that have been ordered euthanized by courts around the country.

His belief, he has said, is that they should be given a place to live out the course of their natural lives.

The sanctuary's motto is: “We save dogs you'd rather see dead.”

In his statement Saturday, Markwell said it is Best Friends' commitment to keeping dangerous dogs alive that led him to reach out to them.

Founded in 1984, Best Friends is the largest “no-kill” sanctuary in the United States.

In an email statement issued Sunday morning, Barbara Williamson, the society's spokeswoman, said Best Friends has contacted Markwell for more information.

“While we understand the concern that is driving so many people to urge us to take in these dogs, only after extended discussions and careful evaluation will we be able to determine what is possible,” Williamson wrote.

“We know from experience that responding to these situations takes a tremendous amount of money, manpower, time and planning.

“Given the complexity of this situation, it is simply too soon for us to commit to any particular course of action.”

Officer Todd Garcia of Forks Police Department reported on Sunday that about a half-dozen members of Anonymous Seattle, described as an activist group, had joined the protest.

They wore masks of 17th-century British revolutionary Guy Fawkes similar to those commonly used in Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

They reportedly removed “We Support OAS” signs from the Forks Coffee Shop, a restaurant frequented by Markwell while he has lived in Forks.

Supporters of Markwell have organized a donation drive for food and straw to be used while the dogs are still in Forks.

Donors can drop dog food — grain-free is requested — or straw at Forks True Value, 10 S. Forks Ave., or at Forks Animal Hospital, 410 Bogachiel Way.

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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 16. 2013 9:28AM
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