Dog News

Dogs from Olympic Animal Sanctuary Get Real Chance at a Happy Life

by Katherine

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For months we have been following the story of more than 120 dogs that were kept inside an unventilated, metal warehouse, in Forks, Wash., called the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS). The organization’s founder, Steve Markwell, kept the animals in travel crates and stated that his rescues were dogs with behavioral problems destined to be euthanized if it wasn’t for his help. Markwell claimed his animals were well taken care of and none of them suffered any abuse, however, former sanctuary volunteers reported the pets were rarely allowed outside their crates for fresh air, walks or exercise. The innocent animals did not have access to clean water or daily food, and worse, many of them were just going crazy inside their crate jail cells.

After OAS protesters received national and international support from thousands of animal lovers who wanted to see a change in the care of the OAS dogs, protests were organized and people pressured Forks officials and Markwell to release the dogs.

Alex, former OAS dog. Photo Credit: Protest OAS/Facebook
Alex, former OAS dog. Photo Credit: Protest OAS/Facebook


On Dec. 2013, right before Christmas, Markwell felt threatened by protesters. He packed the dogs in a 52-foot truck and fled Wash., with no set destination. Thanks to Robert Messeri from Guardians of Rescue, the former founder of Olympic Animal Sanctuary agreed to drive the animals to Arizona and sign them over to Guardians of Rescue.

In total, 124 dogs, descended in Arizona at a desert property run by Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation (RUFFF). All animals were in need of proper nutrition, love and medical care.

Guardians of Rescue, along many other animal lovers and registered animal organizations started working towards getting all dogs healthy and ready for forever home.

Tippy, former OAS dog. Photo Credit: Protest OAS/Facebook
Tippy, former OAS dog. Photo Credit: Protest OAS/Facebook


Despite Markwell saying that his dogs were not adoptable dogs, 75 out of the 124 dogs have found a secure home with a registered organization or a loving forever home.

Evidence of the abuse these animals endured while under Markwell’s care has come to light. Dogs were extremely under weight, suffered from open pressure sores, broken teeth, vision problems, misaligned jaws, ringworms, lacerations, infections and much more.

Robert Messeri from Guardians of Rescue and a Roscoe, a former OAS dog.
Robert Messeri from Guardians of Rescue and a Roscoe, a former OAS dog.

Four of the dogs had to be taken into intensive care as soon as they arrived in Arizona. They were close to their death.

It is indisputable that all dogs suffered while under Markwell’s care. However, it is not known if the former OAS founder and its board of director will face criminal charges against the abuse the dogs endured.

For now we are happy to report that thanks to all animals lovers who voiced their concern and acted to free these animals, all 124 dogs are now enjoying a better life. The former OAS dogs are now loved, walked, fed constantly and no longer housed in small cages surrounded by their own feces.

“They’re so happy. And they’re so alive. The spirit is back in their eyes,” Pati Winn, a Washington woman who made it her mission to save these dogs told KOMO News reporter Jeff Burnside.

Guardians of Rescue along the many other organizations that have stepped up to save these animals are now left with costly medical bills. If you would like to help the former OAS dogs, consider making a donation directly to Guardians of Rescue or the other organizations who have welcomed the ex-sanctuary dogs.

Learn more by following Guardians of Rescue on Facebook, Protest OAS or OAS – life inside the sanctuary.

Read our previous news articles on the OAS dogs:
Is the “Sanctuary of Neglect” Closing Its Doors for Good?

Life Inside Olympic Animal Sanctuary