By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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FORKS –– Olympic Animal Sanctuary Director Steve Markwell said Wednesday he has had conversations with two animal rescue organizations about finding new places for the 125 dogs currently in his shelter in Forks.
In addition to having conversations with Best Friends Animal Society, a Utah-based dog rescue organization, Markwell said he also has been speaking with another animal rescue outfit, Guardians of Rescue in New York.
“OAS is currently speaking with Best Friends and Guardians of Rescue to arrange placement of the dogs,” Markwell said Wednesday.
Markwell's attorney, Derek Medina of Port Angeles, said OAS has been in contact since Monday with the Best Friends Animal Society about finding new homes for the dogs now housed in Olympic Animal Sanctuary's 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road in Forks.
“Since Monday, we've had conversations about Olympic Animal Sanctuary,” said Medina.
In the face of protests outside OAS, Markwell announced Saturday he would be willing to work with Kanab, Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society to find new homes for the dogs.
Barbara Williamson, spokeswoman for Best Friends, told the Peninsula Daily News on Monday that her organization had not been in contact with Markwell.
Medina said Wednesday: “I'm not sure there was no contact. But we are now.”
On Tuesday, Williamson said in response to an email inquiring whether OAS had contacted the group: “We don't have anything new for you today. As soon as we have a new statement we will contact the Peninsula Daily News.”
Williamson declined to comment Wednesday when asked whether the group had been contacted.
“At this point in time, we are not making any further statements related to the situation,” Williamson wrote in an email to the PDN.
On Saturday, following weeks of protests outside OAS, Markwell announced he planned to work with Best Friends to shut down his operation and find new homes for the dogs.
Williamson issued a statement Sunday saying Best Friends had asked Markwell to “get in touch with us directly and provide the information we'll need to begin assessing the feasibility of providing assistance.”
Best Friends Animal Society runs the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals, with a dangerous dog shelter on 3,700 acres.
Guardians of Rescue did not immediately respond to the PDN's requests for an interview.
Based in Smithtown, N.Y., Guardians of Rescue says on its website, www.guardiansofrescue.org, that it is “an animal rights and welfare organization whose members work to protect the well-being of all animals and their owners, and come to the aid of those in distress.”
Markwell opened OAS to take in dogs declared too dangerous to adopt 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.”
OAS has been the subject of a Facebook campaign to shut it down for more than the past year, with photos said to have been taken by former volunteers and Forks police distributed widely across the nation.
Markwell was not cited after a October 2012 Forks Police Department investigation into possible animal cruelty.
Markwell is due in Clallam County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. Friday for a hearing in which Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation of Seattle seeks to have a pit bull named LeRoy returned.
The hearing was initially slated for last Friday, Dec. 13, but Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer ruled that Markwell had not been served proper legal notice of the hearing and granted a one-week continuance.
Markwell also is slated to appear in Clallam County District Court 2 in Forks on Dec. 26 for a review of a restraining order issued against him.
The order was granted after protester Maggie McDowell reported that Markwell had yelled at her and kicked her car, breaking off a side light reflector, the morning of Dec. 12.
Markwell was arrested for investigation of a charge of malicious mischief and released on his own recognizance.
He is scheduled to appear on the malicious mischief charge in District Court in Forks on Jan. 2.
A restraining order granted to Markwell against protester Tamira Thayne, founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better in Smithfield, Va., was dismissed without prejudice by District Court Judge John Doherty in Forks last Thursday, Dec. 12, after Markwell failed to appear for a hearing to extend the order.
Thayne was arrested for violating the restraining order Dec. 6 and jailed in Forks city jail for three hours before another protester bailed her out.
A hearing for her violation of the restraining order was set for Monday but was rescheduled for Jan. 13. Attorney Stan Myers of Port Angeles will represent her.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.