It could be a made-for-TV movie, and maybe someday soon it will be. (Markwell, just so you’re not confused, you play the villain, not the hero. I know, it’s hard to believe.)
To read a very well-thought out version of the story, hit this link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/24/1265171/-From-Twilight-to-Nightmare-to-Hope-a-Christmas-Story
I’ve seen a lot in my 13 years of dog activism. Most I would do anything to unsee, and I’ve been arrested instead of the bad guys five times to date, but who’s counting.
Through everything I’ve seen, nothing—no, nothing—can compare to what just went down with the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, and the way it truly took a village to bring these dogs to freedom.
Officials in Washington were all about playing pass the buck. While the police were NEVER mean or rude to me in Forks—and I genuinely liked them as people—they failed these dogs. Miserably.
Their big excuse was “we have no probable cause for a warrant” because the evidence was out of date. Yet they made not one single attempt to GET probable cause, and every piece of evidence signifying probable cause was poo pooed and termed ‘not enough.’
Make no mistake about it, EVERY SINGLE DOG LIVING IN A CRATE IN THAT BUILDING SIGNIFIED ONE COUNT OF ANIMAL CRUELTY FOR LACK OF SPACE. I don’t have a handle on exactly how many dogs that would be, but my guess is in the neighborhood of 80 dogs.
That alone is 80 counts of cruelty, without all the hubbub of vet checks, etc., which would have brought at least another 80 counts.
If that were a known meth lab inside the warehouse, would the Forks police have sat by the wayside and said “Nope, no way to get in. Guess they’ll have to just keep making meth and millions for the rest of their lives?”
No, pretty sure they’d have figured out a little probable cause, gotten a warrant, and did what had to be done.
I never had the direct pleasure of speaking to Mayor Monohon or City Attorney Rod Fleck, because they were the only ones who never responded to our requests for a meeting. They also ensured we didn’t get ONE MINUTE to speak when we showed up at the town council meeting, closing the meeting without batting an eyelash in our direction.
They ignored us the same way they ignored the cries of the 125 dogs sitting in a disgusting unheated warehouse for at least three years; these two need some villain hats of their own, or maybe just cowardly dunce hats and banished to the corner for the same three years.
I’d like to think they are crying into their Christmas dinners today for all the guilt they should bear for what was done to those dogs, but instead they are probably eating, drinking, and sharing merrydom with family members like they haven’t a care in the world.
They complained about activists coming to their town, sending them thousands of e-mails, calling them all day long, yet they fail to realize that all happened because they DIDN’T POLICE THEIR OWN.
We would not have been there had the Forks police, Mayor, and City Attorney done their jobs.
While they played pass the buck, dog advocates and activists got creative, got courageous, and passed the baton until the battle was won.
This was not a case of any single hero, but each stage of the game had a person or persons who took hold of that baton and went out and fought for those dogs like it was a sword and their very lives depended on it.
Because 125 of them did.
Yes, I saw plenty of pissing contests and a fair share of egos at play, but I firmly believe that underneath it all, each person or group did our part to bring this happy ending to fruition for what I hope was 124 dogs who got off that semi yesterday ‘in a secret location somewhere out west.’
[By the way, I think the time for secrecy is over, don't you? Isn't that what got us all into this mess in the first place? What we need is transparency, through and through.]
This account of who ran with the baton is from my perspective, and I apologize to any major players that didn’t hit my radar screen. I’m sure there were plenty, but some of us never crossed paths.
First was Pati Winn, and if anyone deserves the Hero Award, it has to be her. Without that first person to take the stand and say “NO MORE” a cause has nothing to build from. Pati and her daughter volunteered at the ‘sanctuary’ for a year, and did their best for the dogs, but she just couldn’t take it anymore, for obvious reasons. She is the one who started the OAS-Life Inside the Sanctuary facebook page, and I believe if anyone should write a book about what played out here, it is Pati. She was the first domino, the one to start the chain reaction, and she deserves our utmost respect for it.
I’m fuzzy on these details, because it was before DDB came into play, but Animal Rescue Corps and Scotland Haisley came along next, made a case of the evidence, and presented it to Forks Police.
An officer did investigate, found PLENTY for a warrant to go back in, but politics came into play, and in the end Forks Police, mayor, and city attorney sat on the evidence, doing nothing.
This investigation created plenty of fodder for dog advocates to not only believe that something wasn’t right but to KNOW that Pati Winn and the others who had joined her in speaking out were telling the truth.
Neighbors filed complaints, others filed complaints, but still Forks did nothing. What Winn and her supporters hoped was an end to the nightmare for OAS dogs instead became just a ship in the night—that sailed without rescuing the doggies in distress—leaving those who cared feeling helpless and hopeless.
Almost a year dragged by, yet momentum was slowly building, although it was almost imperceptible at times. I remember reading something about the case in passing, and then read the Inside Bainbridge article that to my perception did great damage to the campaign, because the author made it seem like it wasn’t really that bad and Markwell was working on it.
That what he told everyone…for years.
By September the OAS fever was building, and DDB’s Robin Budin posted the OAS page thinking DDB should get involved. We immediately took heat for it, and I backed down, thinking without seeing it firsthand, I didn’t want to defame anyone.
But then I went and took a good look at the OAS-Life Inside the Sanctuary page. Wow! Were my eyes opened. You can’t make that shit up, and if it weren’t true they would have given up long ago.
Truth wants to be told, truth has a way of hanging on by its very fingernails, when all seems lost, because it needs to be free and needs to be known.
I started to think that if DDB continued to turn a blind eye to this, we were no better than the groups I had lost respect for because they never took a stand on the hard stuff. I didn’t want to be like that, and when there was this amount of evidence, I felt DDB needed to take the stand too.
Then came the Facebook message telling me DDB had placed a dog there in 2012. My heart sank. Since our reps worked very independently, I often wasn’t aware of each individual case around the country, but when I investigated my old e-mails and starting putting two and two together, I realized that my group not only SHOULD get involved because it was the right thing, but we were directly culpable for one of the dogs being there.
Ugh. That didn’t sit well.
Sonny was a chained dog that was rescued by DDB reps and volunteers near Seattle, placed in a foster home, bit his foster dad, and was then transferred to OAS, ostensibly for ‘rehab and training.’ I’m not throwing out blame on any of the players involved, because they believed the sham, and I could never say I wouldn’t have been taken too. Markwell only got all these dogs because he excelled at making people BELIEVE he was an expert and worked extensively to rehab all these dogs.
They believed they were doing their best for Sonny; but what he got was life in a crate instead.
Robin Budin, our rescue coordinator, wrote numerous e-mails to Markwell, asking for Sonny back, asking if we could help, but never received a response. We then went public with it, and again, no response.
We booked flights for myself and Robin, and scheduled our visit to Forks and the facility for December 4-15. Our best case scenario involved getting inside, seeing the conditions, and working with Markwell to release dogs and get Sonny into a foster home and along his way to rehab. Our worst-case scenario involved two weeks of meetings with officials and protests.
In November, all kinds of dominos began to line up for the OAS dogs. Maggie McDowell, who formed a Facebook page called Protest OAS, organized a substantial protest for a town hall meeting, and they marched through town, being heckled all the way. At this town hall meeting, donor Sherri Maddox stood and testified that she’d given Markwell $50,000 to build a sanctuary on some donated land, and that he had instead spent the money elsewhere. She believed she had given him money which just allowed him to bring in more dogs, and that truth haunted her.
Markwell was hit with two lawsuits in late November and early December, with the baton passed to Animal Lawyer Adam Karp and his clients AARF, who sued to get Leroy back, and Sherri Maddox, who sued for the return of her $50,000.
When Robin Budin and I arrived and were passed the baton, we were two women who’d flown 3000 miles to seek freedom for Sonny and the others. We simply asked for a tour of the facility and to see Sonny, but instead were met with cease and desist letters, signs saying “Genital Warts” and “Herpes”, and the next day a restraining order from Markwell.
This restraining order was given in violation of the U.S. constitution, and interfered with our right to practice free speech. I protested anyway, drawing my fifth arrest in my fight for dogs, and spending three hours in the Forks city jail.
Apparently Forks police ARE capable of making arrests, just not the ones they SHOULD be making.
We publicized what we saw at the facility each day, and were horrified that not only was Markwell not going inside to care for the dogs, but no one else was either. We met with officials from the county and the city police, and Robin Budin did a great job building a behind-the-scenes community with others involved and discussing strategy on a daily basis.
Next to carry the baton was Seattledogspot.com’s Robert Pregulman, who came out to take a look for himself. He had written about this story sporadically, but after getting involved and standing in front of the warehouse for two days, he became the next domino to insist on his daily blogs that these dogs be freed, and be freed immediately.
Robert was sent many tips and photos through his journalistic efforts, publicized them, and played his part in the takedown of OAS. His publicity of the conditions INSIDE the facility at the end, when no one was getting in, was priceless to ensuring everyone that nothing had indeed changed and remained just as horrendously cruel as photos from the previous year showed.
Maggie McDowell and Protest OAS and protestors following DDB’s facebook journey continued the pressure each and every day in December after December 4th. Debi Esposito even flew out from New Jersey to be with us, and was the only one who could get close enough to film my arrest. She stood alone outside OAS for two hours that afternoon.
Maggie’s dedication earned her an ‘alleged’ attack by Markwell, when he kicked out her vehicle light, pounded on her windshield, and screamed at her to ‘Get the Eff out of Here.’ Allegedly. She was terrified and Markwell earned himself an arrest and release from the Forks city jail.
Ironically, Maggie received a restraining order against Markwell saying he had to be 50 ft. from her, but he received a restraining order of 500 ft. from the two woman who merely stood in front of OAS with signs.
Forks at its finest.
Adam Karp and AARF won Leroy back in court on December 20th, and the next day Markwell disappeared with the remaining 124 dogs, just before a large scheduled protest in front of the warehouse.
Scheduled protests against board member Diane Hawkins played a part too, and deserve a toss of the baton for the social pressure they brought. As the dogs of OAS belong NOT to Steve Markwell as he asserts, but to the organization as a whole, this makes other board members culpable and responsible for the actions of Markwell. It was their duty to oust Markwell and free the dogs, but the fact that board member Diane Hawkins is his mother may have muddied the waters, allowing him to control every outcome of the dogs’ lives.
The final toss of the baton goes to Guardians of Rescue, because they played good cop to our bad cop. Robert Misseri somehow talked Markwell into actually giving up the dogs, and yesterday he showed up somewhere out west in AZ/NV with the trailer full of dogs. I confess that I didn’t see it coming, and I am beyond grateful that he actually followed through with his pledge to Misseri. I am still in shock, but it’s a good shock for once.
Much will be speculated as to who or what was the final straw leading to the release of the dogs, but I contend it was the village that made it happen in the end, and everyone in the village today needs to pat themselves on the back and kiss their dog. We did it!
No word yet on the condition of the dogs, or if all 124 dogs are there. We do know that dogs showed up, and we are hoping and praying Sonny is alive and among them.
More will come out on all this, and although this is the end of the absolute hell part of the story, it’s only the beginning of the journey for dogs who already had issues before reaching the crates of OAS to take the long walk back to recovery.
All throughout this insanity, I have to give HUGE kudos to the dog lovers across the country who rose up in support too; while they couldn’t come and stand with us in person, they made the phone calls, wrote the letters, sent the e-mails. Your contribution was astronomical and invaluable. To those who donated to help DDB fund our trip across country, thank you. You helped make this possible too.
To the dogs who are free today due to all the groups and individuals who took their turn at the helm, we’re sorry it took us so long, and we are so grateful you are alive.
On this Christmas morning, freedom is your gift, and your freedom is our gift.
Bless you all.
—Tamira Thayne, CEO and Founder, Dogs Deserve Better