‘Which California?’ Former dog shelter owner back on Peninsula to answer court cases
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Steve Markwell departs the Clallam County Courthouse on Friday following a Superior Court hearing. —Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES –– Two months to the day after fleeing Clallam County with a semi-truck full of 124 dogs, Steve Markwell, former director of the now-closed Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, returned this week to face fraud allegations and clear a bench warrant.

His stay was only temporary, Markwell said, adding that he came specifically for the court issues.

In a brief interview outside the Clallam County Courthouse on Friday, Markwell said he is not now living on the North Olympic Peninsula and has no plans to rescue dogs in the near future.

He said he drove to Clallam County earlier this week in the semitruck and trailer after retrieving it from the Arizona shelter at which his three-day interstate journey ended on Christmas Eve.

Markwell opened the Olympic Animal Sanctuary inside a 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road in 2004 as a shelter for dogs declared dangerous around the nation, eventually taking in as many as 128 dogs.

When photos of conditions inside the shelter spread across social media sites last year, Markwell drew heavy protests that escalated in December, ending with him fleeing Dec. 21 with the dogs loaded in the semitrailer.

Markwell had not spoken publicly about his dogs or shelter since leaving Forks.

He did not say Friday where he had been since leaving the Arizona sanctuary or where he is living now.

“Which California?” he said when asked whether he had gone to California, where his mother — who officially owns the Forks property — lives.

He was unsure about his future plans but said he thought he might return to substitute teaching, which he had done before opening the sanctuary.

He would not say if he kept any of the dogs, but doesn’t plan to take in any more.

He also said he hadn’t decided what to do with the warehouse in Forks.

On Friday, Markwell was in Clallam County Superior Court to face charges of fraud brought by a former donor.

Sherie Maddox of Port Angeles filed charges of breach of contract and misuse of a restricted donation against the sanctuary in November, saying a $50,000 donation she gave to help build a new shelter was used instead to fund operations.

Friday’s hearing before Judge George L. Wood was on a motion for a default judgment brought by Maddox’s attorney Adam Karp of Bellingham.

Markwell said he had not been served notice of the suit and asked Wood for time to respond to the motion.

Wood granted Markwell one week to find an attorney to represent the nonprofit sanctuary, which dissolved at the end of 2013.

A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Maddox did not comment after the hearing, saying she wanted to leave the courthouse before running into Markwell.

On Thursday, Markwell was in Forks, where he cleared a bench warrant out of Clallam County District Court.

The warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court after being arrested in December for allegedly kicking the car of a protester outside the sanctuary.

Judge John Doherty scheduled a hearing for the malicious-mischief charge for the end of March.

In December, Markwell turned over his dogs to New York-based Guardians of Rescue when he arrived at the Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation shelter in Golden Valley, Ariz.

He left, he said, to stave off threats of violence or even death that had been levied against his friends, family and supporters.

Markwell, who had contacted Guardians of Rescue during his drive from Forks, said crews on the ground when he arrived were unprepared for the dog-filled semi’s arrival.

Organizers had few cages, none of which was assembled, Markwell said.

He said he left the Arizona facility after hearing some volunteers coming in to help organize the rescue operation intended violence against him.

Many of the dogs have been adopted out to various rescue agencies around the country.

Guardians of Rescue officials said last week that 45 dogs remain at the triage shelter in the desert outside Las Vegas.

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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: February 22. 2014 5:47PM
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