So 19 months after 124 dogs from the “Sanctuary” arrived at Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation (RUFFF) in Golden Valley, AZ, the last dogs have been placed with……..well, we don’t know who took the dogs or where they were placed.
Some of the rescues that took “Sanctuary” dogs from Arizona requested to remain anonymous as they were concerned about harassment from “Sanctuary” founder Steve Markwell and/or his supporters.
At the time no one, including me, had a problem with any rescues or people that took dogs from Arizona but didn’t want their identity released to the public.
But GOR’s refusal to reveal where the last 14 dogs went last week is a bit suspicious to me for a few reasons:
1. Just 3 weeks after I wrote a post criticizing GOR for taking 19 months to find homes for the remaining dogs, the dogs disappeared from Golden Valley while GOR claimed “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!”
A couple of people at GOR let me know they didn’t appreciate that post, but at the time they didn’t mention that rescues had committed to taking the remaining dogs. Since GOR said the dogs left Arizona last week, it only had 2 weeks to find rescues to take the dogs, get the dogs vetted, and arrange transportation for them to their new homes.
That’s why I think GOR may have simply moved some of the dogs to another location where it could escape public scrutiny and avoid any more criticism for taking so long to find them homes.
2. GOR has a track record of withholding information. Recently I found out that 2 feral dogs, Wanda and King, escaped soon after arriving in Arizona and were never found. GOR never mentioned it publicly.
That’s why the shroud of secrecy surrounding the sudden departure of the 14 dogs makes me wonder whether or not GOR’s announcement on Saturday was accurate.
3. GOR asked for donations in its announcement that the remaining OAS dogs were gone, claiming that the “enormous endeavor” of caring for the dogs had a “financial impact” on the organization.
While this could be true, GOR did get tons of financial report when it first took in the OAS dogs. Lots of people (myself included) contributed thousands of dollars to GOR and paid for food and supplies to be delivered to Arizona. Pet-related companies contributed hundreds of pounds of food and fencing. The group Rescue Every Dog sent volunteers to help feed/water the dogs and clean their kennels. Best Friends Animal Society sent a truckload of supplies.
In addition, while GOR took care of the dogs in Arizona, it launched multiple new initiatives such as saving dogs from Korea, matching shelter dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD, and helping returning service members adopt pets.
How could it pay for all these new programs if caring for the OAS dogs had a “financial impact” on the organization?
4. GOR’s announcement doesn’t specifically say the remaining OAS dogs went to rescues. Sure I could be picking nits here, but read the announcement carefully. It says the dogs “left Arizona” to being their “journey forward.” It says the dogs have “moved on.” It says several rescues “continue to remain anonymous for privacy purposes.” But it never said the rescues that took the last few dogs requested anonymity.
The Facebook page Protest OAS believes at least 3 of the dogs – Ralph, Tatonka, and Clara – never went to a rescue. Instead, it speculated that they may have been taken by Pati Winn, a former volunteer with OAS whose pictures of the dogs inside the OAS warehouse initially brought attention to their plight. Winn also has Snaps, “a dog that went to OAS after being declared dangerous in King County.”
I can’t say that GOR deliberately parsed its words in its announcement to protect itself in case someone discovered the remaining dogs never went to rescues, but it that happens, GOR could claim it never specifically said that in its announcement that rescues took the dogs.
So what happens now?
Until we know where the dogs are, not much. I think Protest OAS had the best suggestion about what we should do now:
“Given GOR has not provided specific details about where the dogs have landed, we must in good faith trust that GOR has not just moved the dogs from one kenneling situation to another and that each individual dog’s physical, mental, and emotional needs will be met.”
Before I close, I want to reiterate something I’ve noted before: The OAS dogs were in Arizona because Guardians of Rescue convinced Steve Markwell, the founder of the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” to bring the 124 dogs he had crammed a truck trailer to Golden Valley and sign over custody of them.
The dogs would have probably either died or continued to suffer if Guardians of Rescue hadn’t found a place for them. Many of them were already near death after being locked inside crates and kennels, forced to live on their own waste, and fed starvation rations for years. In addition, Markwell hadn’t given them food or water for several days on their circuitous journey from Forks to Golden Valley.
So while several rescues and dozens of people worked for months to free the dogs from the “Sanctuary,” Guardians of Rescue deserves (and has received) tons of credit for its part in rescuing the dogs from that hellhole Markwell tried to pass of as a dog sanctuary.
However, that doesn’t make Guardians of Rescue immune from criticism, transparency and accountability.
Convincing Markwell to turn over the dogs from the “Sanctuary” was obviously important, but it was just one step in a long process that should have culminated with ensuring the last 14 dogs were placed in a situation where, as Protest OAS noted, their “physical, mental, and emotional needs will be met.”
Whether or not that actually happened remains to be seen.