Is the “Sanctuary of Neglect” Closing Its Doors for Good?

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

In September of this year we told you about Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) located at 1021 Russell Rd, Forks, Wash., and the controversy surrounding the place.

Read “Life Inside Olympic Animal Sanctuary” to learn more.

Ex-volunteers and animal lovers came together asking justice for the animals kept inside the unheated, metal barn facility, owner, Steve Markwell, calls sanctuary.

Peaceful protest outside Olympic Animal Sanctuary.
Peaceful protest outside Olympic Animal Sanctuary.

Allegations claiming the pets are not kept in sanitary conditions, have no access to the outside world and are not fed regularly surfaced. Concerned animal lovers asked Forks official to step in a do something for the animals, yet, the government did little to help these innocent pets.

When donors and previous pet owners heard about the animals’ poor conditions and the alleged misuse of funds, legal law suits were filed against Markwell and the sanctuary. Still, city official have done nothing to help the more than 120 dogs incarcerated in there.

Animal lovers have been peacefully protesting outside the sanctuary for days, and even though altercations have happened, and arrests have been made on both parties, it seems the hell these animals have lived for so many years is coming to and end.

Yesterday, Markwell emailed his supporters and said:
“I am offering to transfer OAS’ dogs to the one organization with the resources to take appropriate care of them: Best Friends Animal Society.”

When the statement was made public, Best Friends Animal Society had not been contacted with this offer. OAS critics believe the statement is just another of Markwell’s tactics to ease off the pressure his sanctuary has received since the allegations were made, but many are hopeful that the animals’ future will change for the better and soon.

“I want to make clear that this transfer will be jeopardized if the anti-OAS groups continue to encourage harassment and threats against innocent parties,” continued Markwell in his statement. “I am making this offer to increase the safety of OAS’ dogs and those close to me, and I will not continue to engage if I feel like it is only inflaming the dangerously disturbed personalities that are threatening citizens simply for trying to help the dogs.

If Best Friends and their no-kill partners will agree to take OAS’ dogs, care for them for their entire natural lives, and not transfer them to any other person or organization unequipped to provide the specialized care they require, my attorney will negotiate the details with them.”

In the past other animals organization such as the Humane Society of the United States had offered to help, but Markwell refused their help.

It is unclear if Best Friends Animal Society will take all or just a few of the dogs but our hope is that Markwell stays true to his words and that all pets are released to a facility were they will be proper cared and love.

We hope the animals’ suffering comes to an end soon.

Below is Markwell’s complete statement:

From: Steve Markwell
Date: December 14, 2013
Subject: Statement from OAS

The sole motivation at Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) has always been to give otherwise hopeless dogs a chance at a decent life.

I started OAS to provide a home for dogs whose behavioral problems required specialized long-term care. These dogs were so dangerous, difficult to handle, or came with such troubling histories that the only other organizations that would accept them did so for the specific purpose of executing them.

Since the only other option was a death sentence, OAS accepted more abused and troubled dogs than I ever planned to. This meant conditions were not perfect, but, nonetheless, the dogs were always fed well, sheltered adequately, and provided veterinary care and expert rehabilitation. Three weeks ago, a vet visited the sanctuary, examined every dog, and verified that they all were having their health and medical needs appropriately met.

Beginning a year ago, a disgruntled ex-volunteer whom I fired partnered with extreme “animal rights” groups that oppose all no kill sanctuaries to put OAS out of operation, get our dogs killed, and blame me for it. With the help of the animal rights extremists, she was able to create a social media firestorm that has lasted for a year using false accusations of abuse, neglect, and cover-ups.

Despite allowing the press (such as Peninsula Daily News and Inside Bainbridge), fellow rescuers, and veterinarians inside OAS’ facility to disprove the allegations, the anti-OAS campaigns have ignored the evidence that the claims against us are false. This is largely because the main goals of our opponents – discrediting me personally and killing OAS’ dogs – have nothing to do with the conditions the dogs live in.

The campaign against OAS has become so extreme that anyone who has ever been affiliated with me has been on the receiving end of countless harassing phone calls, e-mails, death threats, and organized campaigns to get them fired from their jobs. A “protester” recently violated a restraining order and was arrested on my property, and now there is a campaign to harass my mother, a woman in her sixties, at her home in California, and to get her fired from her job. My mother resigned from OAS’ board of directors in September.

Given the intensity and hysteria of these groups, I sincerely believe that one of their members will snap at any moment and physically hurt someone close to me, or OAS’ dogs. I also worry that the damage done to OAS’ reputation will prevent it from ever having the fundraising base needed to give these dogs the type of life that I want them to have. Previous attempts to reach out to other no-kill organizations equipped to care for my dogs have been unsuccessful.

For these reasons, I am offering to transfer OAS’ dogs to the one organization with the resources to take appropriate care of them: Best Friends Animal Society. Best Friends is a world-renowned no-kill sanctuary that referred a number of OAS’ dogs to me in the first place. They have the staff, expertise, land, financial resources, and philosophy to give OAS’ dogs the best chance they can ever have for a good life.

If Best Friends and their no-kill partners will agree to take OAS’ dogs, care for them for their entire natural lives, and not transfer them to any other person or organization unequipped to provide the specialized care they require, my attorney will negotiate the details with them. Once the specifics are arranged, I will transfer the dogs and dissolve Olympic Animal Sanctuary.

I think this gives OAS’ dogs the best chance they will ever have of happy and healthy lives. I strongly encourage Best Friends to accept this offer, and I encourage everyone – OAS supporters, opponents, and everyone in between – to contact Best Friends and ask them to take these dogs. They can be reached at:

Phone: (435) 644-2001

Web: www.bestfriends.org

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bestfriendsanimalsociety

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bestfriends

I want to make clear that this transfer will be jeopardized if the anti-OAS groups continue to encourage harassment and threats against innocent parties such as my mother, friends, and ex-board members. I am making this offer to increase the safety of OAS’ dogs and those close to me, and I will not continue to engage if I feel like it is only inflaming the dangerously disturbed personalities that are threatening citizens simply for trying to help the dogs.

In closing, I want to restate that the sole motivation at OAS has always been to give otherwise hopeless dogs a chance at a decent life. I hope Best Friends accepts my offer and does just that.

Sincerely,
Steve Markwell
Founder and Executive Director of Olympic Animal Sanctuary