Lawsuit filed against dog shelter dubbed 'sanctuary of sorrow'

FORKS, Wash. -- Pressure continues to build on a controversial dog shelter in Forks that's accused of severely mistreating its animals.

A lawsuit has now been filed against the man who runs the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, accusing him of "failing to provide adequate and humane care" for a dog named Leroy and refusing to give back the dog placed there temporarily.

"He was a big untrained goof ball," Heather Enajibi, head of the Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation in Seattle, said of her dog Leroy. "He'd jump up on you and hug you. He just loved people. He wanted to be touched. He wanted to be hugged."

Enajibi says even though Leroy loved people, he wasn't nice to other dogs.

"And so we placed Leroy there in a foster situation," she said. "It was supposed to be a safe, loving environment."

The Olympic Animal Sanctuary takes dangerous dogs that might otherwise be euthanized. It's run by Steve Markwell, who lets almost no one inside to chronicle conditions. However, Leroy is inside, according to the lawsuit, with 120 other dogs or more -- so many, you can hear them from the outside.

A Forks police report describes dogs without full access to water or enough room to turn around, fed once a week or so, rarely exercised, with an overwhelming stench.

Photos provided by former volunteers at OAS purport to show Leroy inside with his ribs more protruding than previous photos, his caged area is full of what appears to be feces, a bowl of dirty water, and a wooden wall appears heavily clawed or chewed. The photos made Enajibi demand that the dog be returned to her.

"I cried. I absolutely cried," she said when she saw the photos of Leroy in there. "That's not a sanctuary. A sanctuary in my mind is the highest quality of care."

Markwell, according to the lawsuit, refused to give back Leroy, even though Markwell himself has written he's got too many dogs to handle properly.

When we chatted briefly with Markwell in August outside his rundown warehouse, we asked if the shelter is operating how he envisioned it.

"It's a start," he said.

His attorney and the city have previously said he's violated no laws.

People from outside Forks protested there last week over that city's refusal to take legal action against the dog shelter. Many have said they've tried for a long time to help Markwell but now believe he's beyond help.

And Leroy, Enijibi says, needs to come home.

"He was so sweet. And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. And I want him back," she said.

We reached out to Markwell and his attorney. They had not responded by Thursday evening.