FORKS, Wash. - The owner of controversial Olympic Animal Sanctuary has reportedly said he is driving his 124 dogs to an undisclosed location.
"I've had so many threats. I just need to get them somewhere they will be safe, and I can't risk somebody getting in the way of that," Steve Markwell told the Peninsula Daily News on Saturday.
Forks police visited the sanctuary Saturday morning, and confirm to PDN that it appears the animals are gone.
Members of an OAS Facebook support group say the dogs are in a truck with Markwell, are safe, and add they will continue to protect Markwell by not disclosing his whereabouts.
The news comes a week after Markwell announced that he was closing the facility, and acknowledged that while conditions were not perfect, he did provide basic needs for the sheltered animals.
In the statement, Markwell blamed "animal rights extremists" who he said started "a social media fire storm that has lasted for a year using false accusations of abuse, neglect, and cover-ups."
The warehouse would close, he said, as soon as the dogs were transferred.
Markwell pointed to Best Friends Animal Society as a group that can appropriately care for the animals, and asked his supporters and opponents to encourage the organization to take in the dogs.
Olympic Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit dog facility in a rundown warehouse with almost no windows, and houses dangerous dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.
A KOMO investigation into the sanctuary found dogs without full access to water or enough room to turn around, they were fed raw meat once a week, and were rarely exercised.
Photos revealed crates with dogs inside that are stacked on top of each other. And the smell, which has been described by several who have been inside as overwhelming, was enough to make at least one volunteer vomit.
Emotions on both sides of this controversy have been rising for months with several lawsuits filed against Markwell. He was also recently arrested when Forks police say he kicked and pounded on the legally parked car of a protester across the street.
It is unclear where Markwell is taking the dogs, and while the sanctuary appears to be uninhabited, it has yet to be confirmed whether there are actually any animals left in the warehouse.
This is a developing story. The KOMO News team is working to confirm reports, and find out the details surrounding Markwell's disappearance.