Spin control: The act or practice of attempting to manipulate the way an event is interpreted by others.
Boy, Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” founder Steve Markwell and Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon were in major spin control mode in an article splashed over the front page in the Peninsula Daily News last Sunday.
The article, entitled “‘I’m not going to let anybody tell me where to live’: Former dog sanctuary owner returns to Forks“, is about Markwell’s return to Forks after sneaking out of town in the middle of the night last December with a tractor trailer stuffed with 124 dogs from his “Sanctuary.”
Markwell is back at the notorious warehouse in Forks with several dogs he took with him after he turned over the dogs in the trailer to the rescue group Guardians of Rescue in Arizona.
Estimates are that he has at least 6 dogs with him. He claimed they were his personal dogs. No one knows if that is true or if the dogs were turned over to the “Sanctuary” when it was in existence.
Quite honestly, I’m sick of writing about Markwell and the “Sanctuary.” I’ve already written dozens of posts about how he kept the dogs locked in crates and kennels 24/7, how they were onlly fed periodically and had no access to fresh water, how they had little human contact, and how the vast majority of the dogs weren’t nearly as dangerous as he claimed.
It would be just fine with me if I never wrote another word about him and his awful house of horrors. I hate thinking about what he did to those dogs.
But I won’t sit back and say nothing when he or anyone else (like Forks’ Mayor Monohon) attempts to manipulate the history of “Sanctuary” to escape responsibility for how those dogs suffered.
Ironically, Markwell refused to tell the reporter how many dogs he has now because, “he didn’t want to fuel the social media campaign that drew protesters to his sanctuary last year.”
Hmmm. If he’s that concerned about a social media campaign, why did he give an extended interview to a reporter for the region’s largest newspaper? And allow his picture to be taken in front of the warehouse? Seems like he’d keep a much lower profile if he was so concerned about the protesters that highlighted the plight of the neglected dogs in his pink warehouse.
Now, lets get to the spin in the PDN article.
“I never fit the description of a hoarder,” Markwell said. “I would turn dogs away. I tried finding new homes for the dogs once the money started to drop off, but I got turned down by everybody that I approached.”
While Markwell may have turned away dogs in a few isolated cases, he took in many, many more dogs than he knew he could handle.
Last December I wrote that when he was asked in a December 2009 interview with the online magazine Idea Mensch about how many dogs were at the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary,” he said, “We have 57, and that’s about as many as we’re going to take.”
But in this report from March 201, just 14 months later, he told Forks Police he had 100 dogs.
And in December of 2012, he told a Forks Police Officer inspecting the “Sanctuary” that “he knew he had too many” dogs. The officer went on to write, “I asked Steve what he thought would be a more reasonable amount of dogs he thought he could properly care for and he said 50-60.” (You can find this quote on page 342 of this report).
At the time he still had more than 100 dogs in the warehouse.
On page 228 of the same report, you’ll see he told people that visited the “Sanctuary” in April of 2013 that he had 128 dogs.
When he left Forks last December he had about 124 dogs.
I don’t know if keeping twice as many dogs as you know you can handle makes you a hoarder or not, but it indicates Markwell didn’t turn away or find homes for many of them.
I’d also love to see the documentation that backs up Markwell’s claim that he “got turned down by everybody he approached” about taking some of the dogs.
Last December he said he would to turn over all the dogs to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. But he avoided any substantive conversations with the group, and a few days after he made the offer he left Forks with the dogs packed in a tractor trailer.
It appears to me he made the offer to Best Friends to buy time while he loaded the dogs in the trailer and prepared to leave Forks. They never turned down his offer.
He was also sued by the Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation in Seattle in Seattle because he ignored their request to return a dog they sent him. A judge ordered him to return the dog last December.
Mayor Monohon also showed in the PDN article that he was pretty good at spin control. I guess it’s in his best interest to attempt to revise his role in the “Sanctuary” since he announced he’s running for the Clallam County Commission.
For instance, in the PDN article from last Sunday he said, he had “few interactions” with Markwell. “I really didn’t have a reason to hang out with the guy,” Monohon said. “I’m a cat person.”
And yet, last June the PDN reported that the Mayor told the Forks Forum that, that OAS owner Steve Markwell has been “a great citizen and an all-around good guy.”
That’s pretty high praise for someone you claim to not know very well. What changed, Mr. Mayor?
Mayor Monohon also said in the article last Sunday that the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” was “never a transparent organization by any means.”
While that statement is actually true, he appeared to support the organization last June when he said that “the critics of the OAS don’t understand the animals kept at the facility” and that “there are people who think he has house pets, but they aren’t. These are dogs that anywhere else would have been put down.”
So last June the Mayor said we critics of the “Sanctuary” just didn’t understand its work, but now it’s not a transparent organization. Again, what changed, Mr. Mayor?
By the way, over 100 of the 124 dogs from the “Sanctuary” have been placed with dog rescues since January, and several of them have already been adopted into loving homes.
Seems like the Mayor was the one who didn’t understand the dogs Markwell kept.
The Mayor’s next statement explaining why Forks never investigated animal cruelty complaints against Markwell is blatantly false. He said, “Before, we never had any current information. We had the photos, but they were a year old by the time we got them.”
On October 30, 2012, an attorney with the Animal Rescue Corps gave Forks Police Chief Rick Bart an extensive report of “suspected animal cruelty and neglect” (page 392 of this link) against the “Sanctuary.” Some of the photos and evidence in the report were collected juyst weeks before Chief Bart got the report.
In November of 2012, a Forks Police Officer went through the warehouse and turned in a report documenting extensive examples of animal neglect (page 376 of this link).
Both reports had recent photos and eyewitness documentation. The Mayor had plenty of “current information.”
But he did nothing with it.
Finally, the Mayor said in the article that the city couldn’t respond to complaints about the “Sanctuary” because it “would have then been open to litigation from Markwell because it had no legal justification.”
The legal justification was in the two reports I just mentioned. They both contained dozens of pages of specific, detailed, current evidence of animal neglect.
I expect in the coming weeks Mayor Monohon and Markwell will continue to use spin control to sanitize and deodorize their roles in the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary.” If they do, I’ll be sure to point it out.
One last note – personally, I don’t care where Markwell lives.
I just want him held accountable for what he did to the dogs at the “Sanctuary.”