After hellish journey, Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs are finally safe
I've rarely been happier about being wrong
Monday night I wrote on the Seattle DogSpot Facebook page that I didn't expect Steve Markwell to show up Tuesday at the designated secret location where he said he would hand over 124 dogs he had taken from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) to the group Guardians of Rescue (GOR).
But after keeping hundreds of thousands of dog lovers in suspense on Christmas Eve day, Markwell finally showed up at the undisclosed location near the Arizona-Utah border described as "an hour from anywhere" with the dogs in tow at about 2:30 PM PST.
So Mr. Markwell, I apologize for my prediction. Thank you for showing up and finally releasing the dogs to groups that will give them the proper care and attention they deserve. I hope all of them will live long, happy lives.
GOR said all 124 dogs are accounted for and it will take 4-5 days to complete the intake process before they will be sent to various rescue groups that volunteered to take them.
I considered writing a summary of all the events that led up to the meeting between Markwell and GOR volunteers somewhere in the desert on Tuesday, but honestly, I didn't have the motivation to do it.
Witnessing and writing about animal cruelty and neglect takes a lot out of you emotionally and saps your energy, and I just wasn't up for rehashing everything that's happened regarding the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in the last few months.
I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the people who rescue dogs do it full time. It's brutal work.
Wren at the Daily Kos and Tamira Thayne at Dogs Deserve Better have already written excellent pieces chronicalizing what happened. I recommend them to anyone seeking to learn more about the events that led to yesterday's drop off.
But I do have some thoughts regarding Markwell's escape with the dogs from OAS while pretending to negotiate their release with rescue groups and his journey with 124 dogs stuffed in the back of his trailer.
Revisionist History - Markwell as hero?
Some people are praising Markwell as a hero for delivering the dogs to safety Tuesday.
Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.
Saying Markwell should be commended for delivering the dogs yesterday is like saying an arsonist who rescues people from a fire he started is a hero.
Markwell is the orchestrator of this whole fiasco from beginning to end. Numerous pictures and testimony from several sources - Forks Police (when they actually did their job), former volunteers, and protesters - are remarkably consistent.
From the unbearable stench inside the warehouse, to the dozens of dogs living in crates and never getting exercise, to rotten, maggot-infested meat stored in boxes on the floor, to the twice-a-week feedings, the evidence provided by every source was virtually identical.
Markwell deserves nothing other than to be held accountable for the abuse and neglect he inflicted on those dogs.
Trailer outfitted with custom crates weeks ago
Guardians of Rescue posted a picture of the inside of the trailer in which Markwell hauled the dogs showing it lined on either side with 3 rows of brand new, nice looking, custom-fitted crates.
Some people have speculated that Markwell outfitted the trailer with crates recently as the pressure on him to release the dogs came to a climax.
But if you know anything about Markwell, you would know attention to detail and carpentry skills are not among his strong points.
The grounds and interior of OAS were strewn with trash and debris, and the floor was covered with straw saturated with urine and feces, boxes of rotting, maggot-infested meat, and buckets of fetid, dirty water.
Here's how the Forks Police described the condition of his bedroom after they inspected the facility: "Steve showed me one room that he said was his room. Two dogs were currently being housed in it. I saw several piles of feces and runny diarrhea in the corner."
Martha Stewart he isn't.
Given the extremely short time he had to build the crates in the trailer and his general sloppiness, there is no way he outfitted that trailer with those well-built crates in a few days himself.
Trailer was bought in August to haul dogs
Markwell paid $6000 for the trailer last August. As you can see from the document below, he told donors he was going to use it to refrigerate food for the dogs.
However, the document below tells another story.
After he secured the trailer, Markwell started a trucking company, registered at the address of OAS, to haul "animals" and "non-livestock."
Though people don't know if Markwell planned to use his new trucking business to take dogs from OAS to other shelters (highly unlikely) or to drive around the country to collect more dogs to bring to OAS (more likely), he most likely had the crates built into the trailer weeks before he took the dogs.
That's probably why the trailer he supposedly bought to refrigerate food for the dogs was nowhere to be seen on the OAS property.
So as the pressure on him to turn over the dogs increased, he just brought over the trailer, loaded the dogs into the crates and took off.
Oh, and by the way, it's illegal for a nonprofit to solicit money for a an item for a specific purpose and then use it for something else.
I'm sure the authorities will be looking into that at some point.
Markwell had no destination in mind when he took dogs from OAS
Some people speculated that Markwell had already cut a deal to give to dogs to GOR when he left OAS with the them.
My sources tell me that isn't true.
Markwell had no idea where he was headed with the dogs. He chose to flee OAS with the dogs because of pressure on him in the last few weeks created by:
- A lawsuit filed against OAS by Seattle-based rescue Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation to regain custody of Leroy, a dog it had sent there (a judge ruled that OAS had to release the dog to the rescue).
- A lawsuit filed against OAS by a former donor accusing Markwell of misusing a $50,000 donation.
- His own arrest for attacking a protester outside OAS.
- People continually protesting outside OAS to raise public awareness about the horrible conditions in which the dogs were forced to live and force Markwell to release the dogs to rescue agencies.
- A planned protest this January 8 in front of of the school where his mother, Diane Hawkins, taught that would have resulted in her termination. She was Vice President of the OAS Board until recently and made $78,000 in rent as owner of the property where OAS was located.
As the pressure on Markwell mounted, the people who had provided his political cover could no longer protect him, so in his typical haphazard fashion, Markwell decided to take the dogs and leave OAS although he had no destination in mind and no plan to care for the dogs.
Markwell caught off guard by pictures showing he fled with dogs
We don't know exactly when Markwell left OAS with the dogs, but it had to have been before about 2 AM last Friday, December 21.
That's when these pictures were taken inside the OAS warehouse showing that all the dogs on the ground floor were gone.
Markwell most likely counted on having a several day head start before anyone discovered he had taken the dogs.
But because the people who took the pictures on Friday morning had also taken pictures on Tuesday morning, December 17 showing the warehouse full of dogs living in squalid conditions inside crates and kennels, he probably only had a day or two head start before people realized he was gone.
Who knows where he would have ended up if it had been several days before anyone realized he and the dogs were gone.
Dogs' mistreatment continued on long journey in trailer
At some point after he took the dogs from OAS with no real destination in mind, Markwell must have realized he had few options available for what he could do with the dogs.
It's not easy to keep 124 dogs hidden without eventually being discovered. And the logistics for the daily care that many dogs require is mind boggling.
So at some point, Markwell decided to cut a deal with GOR to take the dogs to a secret location on the Utah/Arizona border where they would be unloaded, put into kennels, and sent to rescue groups around the county.
That means for approximately 5-6 days, those dogs were stuck in those crates.
Markwell was originally supposed to arrive at the designated meeting spot on Monday the 23rd. But the Peninsula Daily News reported that he told GOR he wouldn't arrive until Tuesday because he had to make stops "to feed and water the dogs and take the animals out for breaks."
But I don't see how that could be possible.
I was told that, of the 124 dogs Markwell had, 40 of them were small dogs that he doubled up in crates, so 84 crates had only 1 dog, and 20 had 2 dogs. Every time Markwell stopped for one of these "breaks," he had to take dogs out of 104 crates.
Let's assume it took him 15 minutes to open a crate, leash up a dog, take it outside, feed it, water it, let it go to the bathroom, and put it back in the crate. That would mean that it would take him 26 hours do this with all the dogs.
And since I'm not great at math, let's say it only took him half the time I calculated to take the dogs out for a break. It would have still taken him 13 hours for each break.
Furthermore, if you look at the picture of the crates in the back of the truck, you can see that the sawdust pushed up against the doors of the crates on the floor of the trailer doesn't even look like it had moved at all. Don't you think if Markwell had regularly taken the dogs out for breaks the sawdust would have moved?
Instead, it was packed up against the crates to keep the dogs' urine from leaking out. You can even see a trail of liquid that the sawdust didn't absorb leaking out of the back of the trailer.
There is no way all those dogs were getting regular breaks. I'm sure Markwell was, but the dogs weren't.
Just like at OAS, these dogs were forced to live in cramped quarters in their own waste. I'd be surprised if Markwell let them out of their crates even once.
What's next for the OAS dogs?
Guardians of Rescue has said that it will take 4-5 days to process all the dogs and determine how healthy they are and another couple of months to get all the dogs to rescues.
In the meantime, the dogs are living in 10' x 10' kennels, which are veritable mansions compared to the cramped quarters they were in for so long. And most of them are feeling the sun and smelling fresh air for the first time in who knows how long.
While there are still many details and logistics to figure out, I think Guardians of Rescue is doing the best job they can. Ideally, it would have been better for other rescues to be involved to reduce the burden, but since Markwell was holding the dogs hostage and calling the shots, only GOR could receive and care for the dogs. He wouldn't allow any other rescue to participate.
Some people have said that GOR is filming all the action at the drop off location and will use it for a reality show on dog rescue that premiers in January. But GOR has categorically denied this, and my sources tell me no one is doing any filming at the site for a reality show. I have no reason to believe otherwise.
While this rescue may not have occurred under ideal circumstances, at least these dogs are safe and out of the hellhole in which they were forced to live.
I expect that we will hear more details about the dogs' health in the next few days. In the meantime, let's be thankful that they are with caring people, and that their lives are infinitely better than they were when they arrived on Christmas Eve.
The rescue wasn't perfect, and we may not be hearing as much detail as we would like, but I expect that to change. Remember, GOR didn't have months to set all this up. They did it in a few days. And it's only been 2 days since the dogs arrived.
I'm sure we'll hear more information soon.
In the meantime, you would like to make a contribution to Guardians of Rescue to help pay for the cost of caring for the 124 dogs from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, click on this link.
As for Steve Markwell, I'm sure we'll hear more about him before this is all over.
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