Yesterday five people peacefully protested in front of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary for the release of Sonny and for humane treatment and release to rescue for all the dogs warehoused and caged in frigid temperatures at 1021 Russell St. in Forks, Washington.
This was Day Two of a protest organized by Dogs Deserve Better founder Tamira Thayne and rescue coordinator Robin Budin, occurring on December 5, 2013.
The two women flew 3000 miles from the East Coast to spend two weeks protesting in hopes of getting Sonny, a dog placed in the Sanctuary by a former representative of the organization, released to them for rehabilitation with experienced dog trainers.
Dog advocates have been agitating for better treatment for the dogs and for the Washington state cruelty laws to be upheld since at least November of 2012, but conditions have only remained the same if not worsened.
A formal complaint made by a neighbor in January 2013 alleged the following: “This past week the smell was so putrid that I could not even step out into my own garage without gagging, to the point of being sick. I also had to cover my nose and mouth to breathe just to get into and out of my car. I have lived here for 36 years but now feel I am becoming a prisoner in my own home…
“It is my growing concern that with the escalating putrid odors and the mournful howling that can often be smelled and heard coming from that facility, that these animals are being forced to live in an inhumane environment that no animal should ever have to endure. Please rescue those poor animals and put a stop to the deplorable conditions that we are all having to live with.”
After a police investigation documented and photographed horrendous conditions for the dogs living caged 24/7 in the Russell Rd. warehouse last year, Olympic Animal Sanctuary founder Steve Markwell cut a deal with police to release dogs to rescue and lower his dog population to a total of 60 dogs or less.
He has not followed through on this promise, and now rescue groups who placed dogs with what they were misled to believe was a true sanctuary for animals are coming forward and asking for these dogs to be returned. Steve Markwell has refused to return the dogs, despite his agreement with Forks Police and despite a moral obligation to release these dogs back to their rescues.
Since when can someone make an agreement with police to avoid arrest, not honor the agreement, and not suffer the consequences?
Here’s what happened on Day Two of this protest, according to Tamira Thayne:
Myself, Robin Budin, and three other dog advocates whose names are being withheld for their own protection, arrived at the warehouse at 1021 Russell St. at 10:00 a.m. It was 29 degrees and snowing, and conditions outside the facility remained the same as observed the previous day.
There appeared to be no one on the premises caring for the dogs, at least there was no vehicle visible at the location, and no one entered or left the building during the time we carried out our vigil there, from 10 a.m. through 1:30 p.m.
No dogs that are warehoused inside were walked, released to the yards for exercise, or were made visible to us during the 3.5 hours we remained outside. We continued to hear mournful howls coming from the dogs inside as well as out at least once an hour and lasting for 1-3 minutes, as we documented the previous day.
There remained the same older collie visible outside in the fenced yard, and he immediately climbed the hill to look over the fence and bark at us. We observed that he is missing fur about 3/4 of the way down his back on both sides—we don’t know why or if he has received medical treatment for the condition.
We took up our positions outside the warehouse but not trespassing on the property, each of us holding signs advocating for the dogs and for the organization to honor the agreement made with police by releasing the dogs to rescue.
We were informed by Forks Police the day before that we have the constitutional right to protest in front of the property as long as we are not on the property belonging to OAS.
Robin and myself had purchased thermal underclothing and warmer hats and gloves the day before to endure the time outside in the cold. On December 4th, although it was sunny, the sub-freezing temperatures had plagued us and we knew we needed to dress warmer to endure the snow and cold expected today.
When we arrived there was ice forming on the drainage culvert outside the property, and a light snow was falling.
We protested peacefully until 1:00 p.m., and observed Steve Markwell drive by around 11:00 a.m. to see if we were still in front of the premises, and then drive off. At no time did we speak to Steve Markwell or know where he was. We do know he was not on the premises caring for the dogs during ANY of the so far eight hours we spent outside the facility.
At 1:00 p.m. a Forks police officer arrived stating that he had restraining orders against myself and Robin Budin. We discussed how this was possible given that we had done nothing but exercise our constitutionally protected right of free speech, and had done nothing to harass or threaten Steve Markwell. The officer informed us that it was in place until we appeared before a judge to argue our side of the case on December 12th, 2013.
We were asked by the officer to disburse from the front of the property at 1:30 p.m., at which time we moved to take up our vigil in front of the mayor’s office and city hall.
The restraining order states that we are to remain 500 feet from the premises where Steve Markwell lives or works, effectively prohibiting us—unlawfully—from practicing free speech, and cannot be tolerated in a country where this right is guaranteed to all.
Let it be known that we care not one whit about who Steve Markwell is as a person or where he is at any given moment. We care not to follow him or harass him.
We care ONLY about getting Sonny released back to our rescue group and getting him placed into a training situation, and we care that either Steve Markwell honors his agreement with police by releasing the other dogs to rescue, or that law enforcement upholds cruelty laws in the state of Washington and follows through with actions dictated by their own investigation in November of last year.
We have a lawful and legitimate reason for protesting here.
If Steve Markwell leads a legitimate nonprofit sanctuary operation, then he has a moral obligation to prove that to all comers, exactly the same way other nonprofits do and would. He has failed to do so, but instead has spent the last two days figuring out how to rid himself of the ‘threat’ of two women with signs standing on his doorstep asking to see the conditions at the warehouse and to have Sonny released back to our organization.
We have in no way threatened him. In fact, it has been exactly the opposite, with him intimidating us with his vehicle and a cease and desist letter to curb our right of protest.
Instead of spending the time at his facility caring for what we are told is at least 120 dogs, he has ignored their needs and focused his attention on doing myself and Robin Budin legal harm.
This is unbelievable and unacceptable. Every hour I stand in front of that warehouse and know that no one is in there caring for these dogs is an hour I suffer emotionally and mentally, feeling powerless to help them. Thousands of people all over the world suffer daily thinking of these dogs and the conditions they face.
Nelson Mandela, thank you for the light you brought to our world. Thank you for standing up in the face of injustice and cruelty and saying “No More.” I mourn your passing but rejoice in the gifts you left behind for us to emulate.
I based the premise for Dogs Deserve Better on a saying attributed to you, and it is never more fitting than today—
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
I will now return to the front of the warehouse at 1021 Russell Rd., Forks Washington, to continue my peaceful protest. This is my right as a citizen of the United States of America.
I will not be bullied into submissive silence while the dogs continue to suffer.
If I am arrested this morning for doing so, it is my honor and privilege to spend an hour in jail for every dog who is spending his or her life in a tiny cage in an unheated warehouse mere blocks away. I ask only for all citizens to continue to fight this outrage on their behalf.
We must be their voices.
—Tamira Thayne, Dogs Deserve Better
For the record, Robin Budin neither asked me to nor influenced this writing. This is all me.