GOLDEN VALLEY, Ariz. — Veterinary specialists examining the 124 dogs formerly of Steve Markwell’s Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Arizona have found the animals to be thin — some greatly so — but in generally fair condition.
Certified veterinary technician Sherri Watson of Mohave Valley Animal Hospital said 76 of the dogs, many of which are not family-friendly and are considered unadoptable, were examined this week.
“They weren’t in dire need of medical treatment or anything,” Watson said, but several of the dogs were “quite thin.”
The animals most commonly showed signs of being malnourished, she added.
One extremely thin dog and another that was having seizures were transported to an animal-care facility in Las Vegas, Watson said.
“Some of them could have used some grooming,” she added.
Examinations, including those by veterinarian Dr. Dalen Sites of the Mohave Valley Animal Hospital, are expected to be completed by Monday, said Robert Misseri, president of the animal welfare group Guardians of Rescue, which is coordinating the animals’ care and eventual distribution to animal rescue groups.
Markwell, who founded Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, loaded the dogs into a climate-controlled 53-foot trailer Dec. 21 and headed for Golden Valley, Ariz., arriving Christmas Eve at the Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation shelter.
Markwell made the abrupt trip following demonstrations by animal rights activists at his 1021 Russell Road warehouse and a Facebook campaign against him that had reached nationwide proportions.
Critics said Markwell housed the animals in inhumane conditions at his 5,120-square-foot Forks warehouse.
Markwell has denied any mistreatment.
“We were told these dogs were ‘hard-case,’ but many of them we were able to take a look at actually seemed well-behaved and were not aggressive,” Watson said. “I was actually surprised.
“Most of them didn’t seem too bad off,” she added.
“Most of them are going to be OK. They just need a little TLC.”
The animals’ behavior and demeanor “ran the gamut,” Watson said.
Many were examined while they were still in the trailer.
“Some were really happy to get out and have some fresh air and freedom, and some were aggressive dogs that were not able to be examined or handled,” Watson said.
“For the most part, they wanted to get out and see the daylight.”
Misseri said the dogs were examined Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
Seven Arizona Humane Society veterinarians and veterinary technicians are helping with the examinations, he said.
Markwell is not allowed to return to the Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation shelter except to pick up the tractor that he drove to transport the animals on a 1,300-mile journey from Forks, Misseri said.
Unauthorized personnel are not allowed on the RUFFF property — and that now includes Markwell.
“For all the parties involved, I think it’s best he not come on the property,” Misseri said.
“Anyone who is not invited on that property would be trespassing.
“He could potentially be arrested.”
Misseri’s Smithtown, N.Y.-based organization has coordinated the dogs’ medical and kennel care in preparation for the animals’ eventual placement with other rescue organizations.
The dogs are no longer owned by Markwell but by Guardians of Rescue, which did not pay Markwell for them, Misseri said.
Tension between Markwell and others at the Arizona shelter had been high since Markwell arrived, Misseri said.
“From Day 1, there was quite a bit of tension,” although there were not any “physical fights,” he said.
“The stress level of everyone involved in trying to get the dogs off the truck, and just different personalities and opinions and passions, colliding passions, brought the tension level up.”
Misseri said he did not know where Markwell was going.
Markwell has not returned calls for comment since Dec. 21, the day he left Forks.
The Facebook page “We Stand With Olympic Animal Sanctuary” posted the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“For those that have inquired over the past few weeks how to help — we are in the process of dissolving our organization. The animals have been placed with other rescues.
“We appreciate your support over the years, and if you would like to help with our outstanding balances and other expenses associated with our closure, you may still make donations here.
“You may also mail donations to: Olympic Animal Sanctuary PO Box 3044, Port Angeles, WA 98362 Olympic Animal Sanctuary is no longer a registered charity in the state of Washington.
“Olympic Animal Sanctuary is still a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, tax ID# 26-0886993. Your generous gift is tax deductible to the full extent allowable by law.”
________Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.