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Attorney General sues former owner of controversial Forks animal sanctuary

Attorney General sues former owner of controversial animal sanctuary
Attorney General sues former owner of controversial animal sanctuary Guardians of Rescue / Facebook

The Republic reported today that the state attorney general is suing the former owner of a controversial animal sanctuary that was located in Forks, Washington. The attorney general stated that Stephen Markwell failed to register with the state while he raised $300,000 for the now-defunct Olympic Animal Sanctuary.

Attorney General sues former owner of controversial animal sanctuary
Attorney General sues former owner of controversial animal sanctuary Guardians of Rescue / Facebook

Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated that by not registering with the Secretary of State's office, Markwell unlawfully solicited and collected money. Ferguson also stated that Markwell did not keep records that showed how he spent the donations that came in to Olympic Animal Sanctuary - and this is a violation of Washington's Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act.

The Olympic Animal Sanctuary has long been a source of controversy. Originally founded to provide refuge to dogs who would otherwise be euthanized, the non-profit facility was located in a warehouse. The facility housed dozens of dogs, including those who were deemed to be "dangerous."

According to a 2012 Forks police report, however, many of the dogs were housed within travel crates without continuous access to water. The report also stated that the animals were only fed raw animal parts once or twice weekly. Animal rights activists protested outside of the sanctuary and on Dec. 14, 2013, Markwell made a statement. In it, he remarked: "Beginning a year ago, a disgruntled ex-volunteer whom I fired partnered with extreme 'animal rights' groups that oppose all no kill sanctuaries to put OAS out of operation, get our dogs killed, and blame me for it."

Shortly afterward, Markwell departed Forks in a 53-foot tractor trailer, transporting the 124 dogs from the 4,000 square foot warehouse that they had called home. Markwell and the dogs arrived in Golden, Arizona in the early morning hours of Dec. 21. Animal rescue organizations, including Guardians of Rescue, stepped up to help the dogs find loving homes.

According to the Peninsula Daily Record, the Forks City Council is now working on a draft of a new ordinance to limit the type and number of pets that a resident could have without special licenses. The officials considered the ordinance after allegations of animal abuse and animal neglect emerged about the Olympic Animal Sanctuary.

Guardians of Rescue announced on their Facebook page that the last 18 dogs from Olympic Animal Sanctuary have been adopted. The Peninsula Daily Record reports, however, that Markwell is in Forks once again living in the pink warehouse that once housed the sanctuary.

On Monday, Forks Police Chief Rick Bart stated that Markwell has several dogs and is potentially keeping snakes, as well. He stated: “He refuses to tell us how many he has."

Animal rights activists called for animal cruelty charges to be made against Markwell. The attorney general's action does not address allegations of animal neglect.