December 12, 2013 was a day marked by intense strife and struggle for both protestors of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary and Steve Markwell, founder of the organization, in Forks, Washington.
It was a day showcasing both restraint and lack of restraint, and highlighting the polar opposite sides of humanity.
For a history of the struggle for justice for the dogs of OAS, visit this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/OAS-life-inside-the-sanctuary/396180077155674
Visit this Facebook page for up to date info on the ongoing protests at OAS: https://www.facebook.com/ProtestOAS?ref=br_tf
Read the previous blog entries for background to the case, and visit our webpage at http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/sonny.html and this Facebook page to learn more about the situation or to donate for legal fees incurred by DDB in our quest to free Sonny and friends.
Some recent blog and media links to what is happening:
This is Tamira Thayne’s take on December 11th and 12th, 2013:
On December 11th, myself, DDB Rescue Coordinator Robin Budin, Robert Pregulman from Seattle Dogspot, with NY attorney Susan Chana Lask, Esq. (participating via phone. https://www.facebook.com/SusanChanaLaskEsq) met in Port Angeles with Clallam County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols, Undersheriff Ron Peregrin, and Tracy Kellas, Clallam County Animal Control Officer.
I am grateful that they took the time to meet with us, because, as we’ve learned, those who don’t want to understand our struggle do not give us the time of day, and this includes Mayor Monohon and city attorney Rod Fleck of Forks, Washington.
These men, the two most important in terms of the decision not to pursue cruelty charges against Markwell with regards to treatment of dogs at OAS, never responded to our requests for a meeting and didn’t allow us even one minute each to talk at the town council meeting to elucidate our concerns.
Therefore, regardless of who may or may not be trying to pull the wool over our eyes, I remain grateful to those who at least took our concerns seriously enough to meet with us.
Police in Forks, including the police chief Rick Bart, have treated us fairly and kindly at all junctures. I will not falsely throw anyone under the bus, and even when asked what the name of my arresting officer was by supporters online I would not give it in an effort to protect his identity. He was only doing what he believes to be his job.
The most important thing this Clallam County meeting did for me was help me understand county politics in regards to who takes responsibility for what. In the simplest terms, let me lay it out for you:
Clallam County District Attorney’s office prosecutes all felonies in the entire county. Period. They also prosecute misdemeanors, but for the city folk of Forks, ONLY when they occur in conjunction with felonies.
In the rural areas of the county and in Port Angeles (I believe, since that is where they are located), they prosecute both felonies and misdemeanors. In the three incorporated cities of the county—which includes Forks—misdemeanors are prosecuted by city attorneys. In Forks we’re talking about Rod Fleck.
Clallam County Sheriff’s office investigates crimes in all areas of the county with the exception of the incorporated cities. In the cities, the city police are responsible for investigating crimes, both misdemeanor and felony. If they ASK for assistance from the county sheriff’s office, they normally receive the assistance, but it needs to be requested.
If Forks ASKS for assistance from Clallam County Animal Control, it will be given, but they have to request it.
We were told this isn’t a hard and fast rule or law, but it’s a matter of respecting the boundaries and working together to make the justice system work. (or not work, as the case may be.)
When the police went into Olympic Animal Sanctuary in November 2012, every single dog who was living in a travel crate would have been in violation of space laws in Washington state. Here’s that law:
2) 16.52.207 (Second degree cruelty).
Here is the language to use:
A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the person knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary suffering or pain upon an animal.
(2) An owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the owner knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence:
(a) Fails to provide the animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure;
In addition, there were many other cruelty infractions observed, including the odor and lack of food and water, and that was without examining each individual dog, which I feel sure if done correctly would have elicited many, many more counts of cruelty. At least one for each dog.
It seems to me in understanding what occurred and why, the officer and Forks police should have gotten a warrant immediately after that visit and went back in based on what was seen when invited in.
I remain critical of Forks police for failing to step up at that point and do the proper investigation despite Steve Markwell immediately lawyering up and threatening lawsuits. This was a critical juncture and this was where a political breakdown occurred in the city and allowed this abuse to continue.
Apparently if they had seized the dogs, they would have had to remain in Forks unless Steve Markwell willingly gave them up to rescue, and I believe that was a major logistical stumbling block for Forks police.
Rightly or wrongly, Mark Nichols office examined the evidence for FELONY charges, and didn’t feel it met the burden of proof. So the County kicked it back down to the city of Forks for prosecution. This means that it was up to Rod Fleck to charge for misdemeanor cruelty infractions. For whatever reason, the single ticket was never issued, and the fight for justice for the dogs trapped in OAS has continued to this day.
I hope this breakdown helps you understand the levels of responsibility. It was immensely helpful to me.
On Thursday, December 12, 2013, Robin Budin and I had an 11:00 hearing for our bogus restraining orders in Forks City Hall. We had retained Seattle animal lawyer Adam Karp, who is also the attorney for the Leroy case against OAS (taking place in Port Angeles today, December 13) and for the Sherri Maddox case, where she gave OAS $50,000 for a new sanctuary and it was spent elsewhere. Note there are article discussing this above.
I’ve had all too much experience with attorneys since I started Dogs Deserve Better, and I can say that Adam Karp is one of the finest attorneys I’ve ever worked with. He is conscientious and hard-working, and I trusted him to handle our case to the very best of his abilities.
Since Markwell fired his attorney, Mr. Karp has had a very difficult time serving him with papers in any of his cases, as he takes off as soon as he sees someone nearing to serve him.
Mr. Karp explained to me that the restraining orders obtained against myself and Robin Budin should fall under Anti-SLAPP laws in Washington state. These laws basically state that you cannot obtain a restraining order against someone in order to prevent them from exercising their rights to free speech. This is exactly what happened to Robin Budin and myself, as we journeyed 3000 miles to protest the treatment of the dogs at the warehouse and ask for Sonny to be returned to DDB, and so Adam filed casework immediately to have our case reviewed for Anti-SLAPP before being judged on the merits of the case.
If we were to win this motion, Steve Markwell would be liable for our attorney fees as well as $10,000 in damages apiece. (I know, it’s like getting blood from a stone.) However, for me it’s not about the money but about the injustice, and so I want to pursue this matter to the very end.
No one should be allowed to slap someone with a restraining order to silence them. We have free speech rights in America for a reason, and anyone who manipulates the system to interfere with these rights should be punished.
Even Westboro Baptist Church, no matter how heinous their message, has repeatedly won legal battles to protest their rights to free speech.
That matter is still under advisement with the judge in the case. For the actual restraining orders, Markwell never showed up for court, and so they were dismissed.
That’s not to say that the criminal matter against myself for violating said bogus restraining order has been dismissed. It is scheduled for Monday, and I am to appear by phone with my criminal Attorney Stan Myers appearing in person on my behalf.
It is highly ironic that I come to Forks to protest the failure to arrest Steve Markwell for the ongoing conditions and treatment of 125 dogs at OAS, get arrested in the pursuit of my freedom of speech, get the bogus restraining order dropped, but still have a criminal charge against ME while Steve Markwell walks free.
Speaking of Steve Markwell and FREEDOM, on the morning of December 12, 2013, protestor Maggie McDowell was in the area of OAS walking down the road and her vehicle was parked across from the warehouse. This is not my story to tell, it’s Maggie’s, but the bottom line is that she made it into her vehicle, and then he allegedly kicked out the reflector on her vehicle and was hitting the windows, screaming “Get the Fuck out of here” while she sat inside terrified.
Luckily a police cruiser just happened by at that time and Steve Markwell was arrested and charged with Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree. He was released and Maggie obtained a restraining order against Steve Markwell.
I will point out that Maggie’s restraining order keeps Steve Markwell at 50 ft. from her, after he allegedly attacked and damaged her vehicle and terrified her, yet the restraining orders against two women holding signs saying “We’re here for our tour” and “We’d like to see Sonny now” kept us to 500 ft. away, because we are obviously MUCH more terrifying than Steve Markwell.
Steve Markwell makes sure everyone knows he carries a gun. Even police chief Rick Bart warned us he carries a gun around his ankle and told us to be careful. I’m grateful that Maggie is ok, and I am sorry that she had to live with the fear of what was happening in that moment.
Protestors all told sat in front of OAS continuously yesterday for 13.5 hours. During these 13.5 hours, NOT ONE SINGLE SOUL WENT INTO THAT WAREHOUSE TO TAKE CARE OF THE DOGS.
Not only that, but the barking was much less, sounding like there were only 15-20 dogs inside, and the rumors are swirling that he has been seen removing dogs in the middle of the night on more than one occasion this week. The debris in front of the building is different, and the crack in the wall appears different.
See the photos below:
From this evidence and rumors one would hypothesize that he is getting out of town—which none of us care about, and I’d imagine Forks is quite happy about—except for the fact that he’s taking the dogs with him.
No one is stupid enough to expect that wherever he is taking the dogs they will have better lives, if he fails to care for them effectively now.
Those of us who bear the responsibility for placing a dog with that organization and are lined up requesting they be returned to us will now only suffer more wondering where they are.
Caring dog lovers the world over who have agonized over the plight of these dogs since the situation has received more publicity in recent months will now live in anguish this holiday season wondering where these dogs are and what is happening to them.
One of my supposed Facebook ‘friends’ wrote SHAME ON YOU on my wall the other day because our group placed a dog with OAS. Thanks, that’s just what I needed to hear while I’m out here fighting for his rights every day.
While I want to be clear that I was NOT the one who personally placed Sonny with OAS and didn’t really put two and two together that someone from my group had placed him at this controversial place until September of 2013, I have been careful not to throw anyone under the bus because I do not personally know exactly what happened.
Our reps had a lot of autonomy for decision-making in their areas, and they were trusted to make the best decisions under the circumstances that they could at the time.
The blame game doesn’t get you very far when you’re talking about 1.5 years ago, because what is done is done. The only thing we can do now is try to fix it.
I would imagine each player in this situation—except for Steve Markwell—feels shame and responsibility and wishes they had done differently. I feel shame and wish that the organization I founded, Dogs Deserve Better, had not failed Sonny.
But we did.
Dogs Deserve Better Seattle reps and volunteers at that time believed in Steve Markwell. He was in People Magazine, for God’s sake, held up as an EXPERT for dangerous dogs! Many, many people made the same mistake, and God forbid there are still people who believe the lie.
Our people fell for the sham, and while I wish I could say I would have done things differently had I been the one making the decision, I’m the world’s worst judge of character, so who knows. The things I’ve seen since starting Dogs Deserve Better would raise the hair on any normal human being, and make me question every single day my ability to see people clearly.
The biggest mistake people representing our organization made was failing to personally SEE his facility before placing a dog there. We have a rule for our reps that all foster homes or situations must be thoroughly checked out before releasing a dog, and this rule was broken because they trusted Steve Markwell and OAS. They believed the sham.
As a result, Sonny has suffered for over 1.5 years in a worse situation than he was pulled from. For that I can never be sorry enough, can never feel enough shame, and can never make it up to him.
I am doing the only thing I can do at this point, rather than wallow in shame and guilt: standing up, admitting our error, and fighting for justice for him and the other 124 dogs trapped in that warehouse with him.
Now that my restraining order has been lifted, I have some words for Steve Markwell, if he can take time from scratching his nuts long enough to read them (his words, not mine). I know that he will not hear them nor will he do the right thing as a result, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least say them:
“I have seen your setup from the outside with my own eyes. I have stood before your facility on as many days as your bogus restraining order allowed me to.
I have not been allowed inside, and that’s because you have a lot to hide. What I have seen is even worse than I imagined, and I am appalled that you have been allowed to continue this behavior, as a human being, and as a nonprofit executive director.
I protested today again once the order was lifted, in the rain, with the other nine brave women who stood all day in the freezing rain asking you to do the right thing.
I have never once in all this time seen, nor has anyone else protesting, you enter YOUR OWN FACILITY.
You are a nonprofit founder. This requires not only fortitude but an enduring moral compass for right and wrong.
What you are doing is wrong. If it were not wrong you would be all too proud to show us.
You cannot, cannot, cannot believe for one moment in your soul that leaving a dog in a crate FOR IT’S ENTIRE LIFE, EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY, IS OK.
I could say so much more, but instead I will implore you, on behalf of the dogs, to stop this pressure cooker now by doing the right thing.
Let the dogs go back to the rescues who sent them there under the false belief that they were going to a sanctuary. Let us make it up to them, let us right our failures, for all the suffering they have endured.
Let them go, and we will walk away and never utter your name again. Take up a career that doesn’t cause harm to beings you are responsible for.
Let them go to groups who want to help them, who want to give them the lives they deserve.
Return Sonny to Dogs Deserve Better.
You are not a man who owns 125 dogs who are your property to do with what you will.
You are a nonprofit executive director who is entrusted with the care of the dogs that belong under the wings, care, and auspices of the nonprofit Olympic Animal Sanctuary.
All dog lovers in America are uniting against your behavior as the founder of this nonprofit, and I am calling for the board of OAS to remove you promptly from your position as Executive Director and release the dogs to rescue.
Let them go. Just let them go.”
I am asking EVERYONE to flood the Board of Directors of OAS with demands to remove Steve Markwell as Executive Director of the organization. Please drop them an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org today to insist on this nonprofit operating at on above-board level and releasing these dogs—owned by the organization, NOT STEVE MARKWELL—to rescue.
–Tamira Thayne, founder and CEO, Dogs Deserve Better