KOMO News reporter Jeff Burnside reported yesterday that a Clallam County judge found Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” founder Steve Markwell guilty of 48 violations of charitable solicitation laws.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who initiated the lawsuit against Markwell last year, told Burnside that Markwell was guilty for “failing to document how he spent $360,000 in donations.” He also said Markwell didn’t register the “Sanctuary” with the state as required by law until the violations had already occurred.
“If you are making a donation, large or small – this covers all kinds of donations small or large – to make sure that dogs are going to a sanctuary, you want to make sure those dollars are used for the purpose of dogs handled and treated humanely. And that did not happen here,” AG Ferguson told Burnside. “And that makes it especially egregious, in this case. And that’s why we prosecuted him.”
AG Ferguson also told Burnside that said “Markwell should be held personally liable to pay fines, penalties and costs totaling about $120,000,” but a judge will decide the amount Markwell will pay next month.
Finally, a smattering of justice.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m ecstatic that AG Ferguson filed the lawsuit against Markwell to hold him accountable for swindling good-hearted donors who gave him their money with the expectation that he would actually use it to help the dogs at the “Sanctuary.” He’s the only elected official in the state that made a meaningful effort to help the dogs.
But it’s a smattering of justice because Markwell still hasn’t been held accountable for his (alleged) cruel, inhumane, egregious treatment of up to 160 dogs he held hostage in order to scam money from donors.
For years, he kept these dogs in crates and kennels virtually 24/7. He fed them starvation rations of maggot infested meat. They did not have access to fresh water. They lived on top of straw saturated with their own urine and feces. They got little exercise, playtime, or any sort of mental stimulation. They got no medical care for most of their injuries and ailments – one dog that had its tail ripped off in a fight was never taken to a veterinarian.
Forks officials knew perfectly well what was going on inside that pink warehouse. Aside from the dozens of complaints about the “Sanctuary” they received, anyone with a nose and a pair of ears could smell the horrible odor emanating from the building and hear the nonstop howling and barking of the dogs.
And if officials bothered to stand outside warehouse for a day they would see that none of the more than a hundred dogs inside were taken outside for exercise.
It’s just basic common sense – one person and a couple of volunteers couldn’t have properly given 124 dogs the care and attention they needed every day. It would have taken over 30 hours just to take all the dogs out for 15 minutes of exercise.
Forks officials had a litany of excuses about why they couldn’t prosecute Markwell: We don’t have enough money for a trial. He’s threatening to sue us if we prosecute him. The pictures of the dogs suffering inside the warehouse couldn’t be used in court. Forks law doesn’t give us the ability to go inside to check on the dogs without his permission.
Blah, blah, blah.
Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon even made the ignorant statement that “many of the critics of the OAS don’t understand the animals kept at the facility. There are people who think he has house pets, but they aren’t. These are dogs that anywhere else would have been put down. These are mean, wild animals.”
Here are some videos of those “mean, wild animals” after they were rescued and adopted.
I think these videos clearly show the Mayor is the one who didn’t understand the animals inside the “Sanctuary,” not its critics.
One good thing that emerged from the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” fiasco is that Washington needs tougher animal cruelty regulations that give state officials the power to take animal out of abusive situations and prosecute cases of animal cruelty if city or county officials refuse to address them. Hopefully the Legislature will address this issue in the near future.
In the meantime, we can take solace that Markwell has been held accountable for grifting donors out of their money. At some point, I hope we learn what he did with all that with their donations.
He obviously didn’t use much of it to take care of the dogs.