No Sanctuary for Dogs
December 24th marks the one year anniversary that the 124 dogs imprisoned in the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” in Forks, WA by Steve Markwell were turned over to the Guardians of Rescue in Kingston, AZ.
The “Sanctuary” was supposed to be a place where dogs with severe behavior problems could live out their lives peacefully and happily instead of being euthanized.
Sadly, it was no sanctuary for dogs.
Markwell kept up to approximately 160 dogs locked in crates 24/7 inside an unheated warehouse and forced to live on top of filthy straw soaked with their own urine and feces. They got no exercise. Markwell fed them starvation rations that mainly consisted of maggot-filled meat stored on the dirty warehouse floor for days. They had no reliable access to fresh water.
While the dogs suffered, Markwell continued to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Fortunately, the “Sanctuary” is now gone, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Markwell last summer for Washington’s Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act for failing to maintain records of how he spent $300,000 donated to the “Sanctuary.”
Markwell insisted that these dogs were extremely dangerous and unadoptable. He liked to say the dogs at the “Sanctuary” were the ones people “would rather see dead.”
But as you’ll see in my series of posts about these dogs, many of them are not dangerous. Others had behavior problems that had to be addressed, but many of them still found homes.
(The information in Tucker’s story came from the rescue in Georgia that sent him to the “Sanctuary” and the people who rescued him.)
Tucker was one of the oldest dogs confined at the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary.” He was originally was rescued in 2010 by a county shelter in North Georgia (Murray County Animal Control) and Our Pal’s Place rescue near Atlanta took him in when they were alerted he was on the kill list. He was heart worm positive, and they found more than 20 pellets of birdshot embedded in him.
Our Pal’s Place had Tucker a little over a year and had no problems with him. Here’s how one volunteer there described him:
“Considering what this soul has been through, Tucker has an amazing spirit. He is always happy to see people and just wants to be loved. In fact, if you stop petting him, he politely asks you to continue! He likes to play ball as well. If humans could learn to forgive as easily as Tucker, this would be a better world! He seems to hold no grudges. It always brightens my day to see his smiling face!!!”
Biting Incident Sends Tucker to the “Sanctuary”
In May 2011, Tucker bit and seriously injured the arms of a volunteer trying to put a harness on him. The volunteer later he made a mistake by startling Tucker when he reached over Tucker’s head.
Our Pal’s Place said they sent Tucker to the “Sanctuary” because they couldn’t handle him. Here’s a video of Markwell picking up Tucker in early 2012.
Tucker clearly had a tough life before his rescue. Someone shot him about 2 dozen times with birdshot and left to fend for himself, so it’s not surprising he eventually bit someone. What IS surprising is that, after all the abuse and neglect he suffered, he didn’t bite more people. He probably didn’t because he has such a sweet personality and loves being around people.
Although Markwell often portrayed himself as an animal behavior expert; however, the only thing he did with Tucker was stuff him in a crate where he lived for almost 2 years.
A few months after Tucker was rescued, Our Pal’s Place agreed to take him back, but instead of keeping him they shipped him off to Smiling Dog Farms (SDF) in Wharton, TX. SDF has over 300 dogs, many of which need medical attention, lack adequate shelter, and live in awful conditions.
You’d think that after Our Pal’s Place found out they had sent Tucker to a faux “Sanctuary” where he lived in horrific conditions, they would have carefully investigated SDF before they sent him there, but apparently that never happened.
Coincidental Meeting Saves Tucker
Last August, Maggie McDowell from Seattle went to SDF to adopt a dog. Coincidentally, Maggie was also instrumental in rescuing the dogs from the “Sanctuary,” and as luck would have it, she recognized Tucker while she was at SDF.
After a lot of wrangling and negotiations, she convinced SDF to turn Tucker over to her, and Safe Haven Rescue Kennel in Yerington, NV stepped up to give Tucker what the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” and Smiling Dog Farm never provided – a safe environment where he could live out his life peacefully surrounded by caring individuals with the training and experience to care for him properly.
You can read more about SDF on the Facebook page, Sanctuary Watch.
Safe Haven provides Tucker with critical medical care that neither the “Sanctuary” or SDF gave him. Their vet removed 13 infected teeth that were infected and treated several abscesses. I can’t imagine the pain Tucker suffered as his teeth rotted.
The damage to Tucker’s teeth didn’t happen overnight – it took years to develop. Apparently, one of the “Sanctuaries” that kept him did anything to help.
Tucker Now Lives the Good Life
After he escaped from the “Sanctuary”, Tucker has shown no signs of aggression and has not bitten anyone. A volunteer working closely with him at Safe Haven had this to say about him:
“Tucker is always a smiling guy who enjoys time with people and his butt scratches. He loves his balls, toys and really enjoys exploring and learning about new things. He is very people friendly dog and with other dogs, but does resource his balls and toys with other dogs. But he does this with good body language and
appropriate mannered dogs understand and respect his space and toys. He is very comfortable in a pen situation and loves to go out and explore the compound area and returns back to his pen when he is done. However he seems to lack real world socialization and since he is working on a diet plan (his blood work showed thyroid is normal), he gets to learn about Nevada desert hills, city park environments, hardware stores and general neighbor situations.
I am extremely thankful he is here with us at Safe Haven. He was/is my “heart” dog since the beginning and I cannot imagine how his life would have been long term at Smiling Dog Farms with all those bad teeth and abscess/infection in his mouth. I feel for those hundreds of dogs who need medical attention and not receiving it at Smiling Dog Farms. Dogs living in misery is not living at all.”
Tucker’s Happy Ending
Most of Tucker’s story is heartbreaking. For most of his life, those responsible for his care failed him miserably. Despite this, he continues to still loves people and greet them with tail wags.
And he’ll live out the rest of his life in supreme comfort: he has a roomy kennel all to himself complete with a heated dog house, a box full of toys to play with, regular walks through the desert, and a host of people that will give him more love and attention he could ever imagine.
Take care Tucker. You finally have a home.
After a the pictures you’ll find a few videos from Safe Haven that show how well Tucker is doing now.