Animal group tells 'Sanctuary of Sorrow' to open its doors

Animal group tells 'Sanctuary of Sorrow' to open its doors
A dog being housed in the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Forks Police.

SEATTLE -- A representative from a Utah animal sanctuary says his organization is willing to take in some of the dogs currently being housed at a controversial Forks shelter, but only if several conditions are met.

Steve Markwell, owner of the embattled Olympic Animal Sanctuary, announced on Saturday that he would be willing to shut down the sanctuary as soon as arrangements could be made for the animals.

That news came after Markwell was arrested Thursday when Forks police say he kicked and pounded on the legally parked car of a protester across the street.

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 Forks police report filed last year found many dogs kept in tiny travel crates in which many could not stand fully erect or turn around with ease. Many cages had no constant access to water, and they were fed only raw animal parts once or twice a week.

In announcing plans to shutter the sanctuary, Markwell pointed to a Utah organization called Best Friends Animal Society as a group that could appropriately care for the animals, and has urged his supporters and opponents to encourage the organization to house the dogs.

In a Thursday statement, Best Friends Animal Society representative John Polis said the group first heard from Markwell on Wednesday. The statement goes on to say that Best Friends is willing to accept several OAS dogs and help find permanent shelters for the rest, but only if Markwell agrees to several terms.

Polis said his group would step in if Markwell agrees to "open wide the doors of the facility and allow all qualified organizations to help immediately and unconditionally." The statement goes on to say Markwell would need to agree to "accept help from all willing and qualified rescues (and agree) not to take in any more dogs at his existing facility or any other."

It's unclear if Markwell has agreed to the terms.

Best Friends Animal Society's full statement is available here.