Olympic Animal Sanctuary is just a jail for dogs
Now that I have seen the Olympic Animal Sanctuary with my own eyes, heard the dogs howling and crying inside for hours with my own ears, smelling the stench with my own nose, I'm now convinced this "sanctuary" is nothing more than a jail for dogs.
It may not have started that way, but that's what it is now.
I came to Forks this week because I thought it was important for me to see in person this facility I've been writing about for the last few weeks.
I'll never forget what I saw and heard there. Ever.
I stood outside the "sanctuary" for about 4-1/2 hours yesterday. Temperatures hovered around freezing most of the day, and it snowed intermittently.
Even though I'd seen pictures of the warehouse where the dogs are locked away, it was still a bit of a jolt to see it in person.
The stark, metal building had several openings where the cold air could get in, junk and trash where strewn around the grounds, and the "exercise yard" remained empty the entire time we were there.
With over 125 dogs crammed inside, you'd think cleaning the crates/cages, feeding the dogs, and taking them out for exercise would be a full time, nonstop job all day, every day, but when I arrived about 11:30 AM no one was there.
A woman who drove down from Gig Harbor (a 4 hour trip, one way) was with me. She came down to protest on her day off after working 12-hour shifts for several days.
Almost as soon as we arrived, "sanctuary" founder Steve Markwell arrived in his truck. He was there for about 2 hours, and other than talking to other people that arrived intermittently, he spent the entire time in his truck with the motor running, presumably to keep warm (too bad the dogs freezing inside didn't have the luxury of heat).
I never saw him go inside the warehouse. Not once.
A few other people came and went, speaking with Markwell for a few minutes, then leaving. While we were there no one approached us other than a guy who works for Steve.
He told us he's been there about a year after being laid off from a local saw mill. He didn't appear to have any experience working with dogs before he came to the "sanctuary". He confirmed that 125 dogs were inside.
He tried to convince us the warehouse was actually pretty warm - about 60 degrees - because of the heat from all the dogs that were inside. I found that hard to believe because of all the openings in the walls and the open windows.
He must not have believed it either since he spent the vast majority of his time sitting in his truck with the motor running and the heat on. He was there about 4 hours, but he only spent an hour inside the warehouse.
He never took any dogs outside for exercise.
We told him we were just concerned about the health of the dogs inside, and we asked what we could do to convince Markwell to let us in to see the dogs.
He said we should start a relationship with Markwell to build trust with him. He also said the best way to do this was to GIVE HIM MONEY.
That's right, he said we'd have to give Markwell money to allow him to trust us.
Unfortunately, I left my checkbook at home, so I was out of luck.
And while Markwell has continually refused to let anyone, including the police, inside the warehouse, the guy working for Steve has taken his girlfriend inside to see the dogs.
We spoke to a few of the people that live around the facility. They expressed concern for the dogs inside and hope we are successful in getting them out.
Here is what some of them told us. I'm not saying if they were men or women to protect their identities.
- One person said their family couldn't barbeque outside during the summer because the stench from the facility is so bad.
- Another said when their dog got loose Markwell took it and then charged them money to give it back.
- A third said their nephew used to work at the "sanctuary" but had to quit because it was so disgusting inside.
The most illuminating information about the "sanctuary" came from some people who wanted to volunteer there a couple of years ago but quit after one day because of how the dogs were treated and the conditions in which they had to live.
Here's what they told me:
- the facility was "the most awful place they have ever seen"
- when they first went inside the smell was so bad their eyes watered and they couldn't breath
- the straw the dogs lived on was soaked with urine, and when new straw was added it was just thrown on top of the urine-soaked straw
- they worked on a 98 degree day in August, and they never saw anyone give the dogs water during the 7 hours they were there
- several of the dogs chewed holes in the sides of their crates so they could stick their heads out
- they kept a dog aggressive pit bull in a plywood box
- the meat the dogs ate was kept in boxes on the floor in the heat
- the meat they fed the dogs was full of maggots
- they were told to open the kennels and throw in the meat
Does this sound like a sanctuary to you?
The Olympic Animal Sanctuary is not a sanctuary. Not even close.
The Olympic Animal Sanctuary is a jail for dogs.
And in some ways it's worse than a jail. At least in jail inmates are allowed to go outside their cells for an hour or more a day. I never saw one dog outside. Not one.
Of course people will say that since I was there only a few hours a day they could have taken the dogs out while I wasn't there. But, if each dog got, let's say, one 15 minute break outside a day, it would take one person more than 24 hours to walk all of them.
I don't think they snuck any dogs by me. No one walked any dogs either day I was there.
In prison, inmates live in cells they have to keep clean and sleep on clean sheets. Since the dogs at OAS don't go out every day, they ate/lived/slept in urine and feces at least part of the time of their stay there. The dogs get the short end of the stick here.
Most inmates in prison eventually get out. The dogs at OAS don't get that luxury. Except in limited circumstances, they don't have a chance to leave OAS.
Despite claiming he has enough help to care for the 125 dogs at OAS, I only saw one person care for the dogs at all, and he spent more siting in his truck than working inside.
Markwell NEVER went inside. Yesterday he sat in his car for 2 hours with the engine running. He never showed today.
A few other people came and went, but they never entered the building either.
Having now seen the "sanctuary," I'm confident I can say Markwell and his helper cannot adequately care for 125 dogs.
I believe the dogs at the Olympic Animal Sanctuary live almost all their lives in crates or cages.
But I'd be happy to change my mind if a representative from a reputable, experienced animal rescue group was allowed to inspect the facility without notice and take pictures of the area the dogs were kept.
While we're waiting for this to happen, please click on this link to see how you can help free the dogs at the Olympic Animal Sanctuary.
I'll tell you more about my trip to Forks in the next few days.
Thanks for your calls and emails to elected officials.
It IS making a difference.
Please continue to contact the authorities listed below -- ask elected officials why they are allowing the dogs to remain in these conditions and why they aren't adhering to animal abuse laws.
Rod Fleck, Forks, WA City Attorney: 360-374-5412 ext. 245. firstname.lastname@example.org Fax (360) 374-9430.
The Forks Police Department 360-374-2223 - Police Administrator, Rick Bart.
Mayor Bryon Monohon email@example.com
City Council Woman Juanita Weissefels firstname.lastname@example.org
Clallam County Sheriff
360-417-2262 - Bill Benedict, Sheriff
Undersheriff Ron Peregrin
223 E. 4th St. Suite 12
Port Angeles, WA 98362
Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney
223 East 4th Street, Suite #11
Port Angeles, WA 98362
Governor Jay Inslee 360-902-4111.
P.O. Box 40002, Olympia, Washington 98504
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