Man behind 'Sanctuary of Sorrow' dog shelter goes to jail
FORKS, Wash. -- The man at the center of a KOMO 4 Problem Solvers investigation went to jail Monday on a conviction indirectly related to the news series "Sanctuary of Sorrow," which exposed the mistreatment of more than a hundred dogs inside a warehouse in tiny Forks, Washington.
Steve Markwell, former owner and operator of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, is also under investigation by the State of Washington for violating charity statutes. And the City of Forks is revamping dog laws to prevent anyone from having so many dogs.
The image of Markwell being patted down and lead past a loud, steel jail door to begin a 20-day sentence in the Forks City Jail will be widely viewed by his many critics as some sort of payback. But he was convicted of damaging a car with a terrified protester inside.
Angry dog lovers in many parts of the northwest -- and around the world online -- became incensed over the conditions of more than 100 dogs inside Markwell's dilapidated warehouse as photographed by police and volunteers who describe dogs fed once or twice a week, with sporadic access to clean water. Several died.
Markwell then surprised many by taking all 124 dogs, loading them over night just before Christmas into a 52-foot semi pulled by his red truck and taking them to the Arizona desert. Once there, he relinquished the dogs and let others, mainly a group called "Guardians of Rescue," find homes for them across the country. Some of the dogs were sent to the warehouse because they'd been deemed dangerous.
His critics hope he'll also face charges related to the treatment of the dogs but authorities say they don't have good evidence.
"We don't have enough to stick him," said Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon moments after Marwell was in jail.
Monohon said photographic evidence, even those photos taken by a Forks police officer, were too old to use in seeking a warrant to go back into the dog warehouse.
Markwell also faces a lawsuit from the Washington State Attorney General's office for failing to register his non-profit dog kennel and not accounting for more than $300,000 in donations.
While waiting inside the jail entry room, Markwell said he can account for the money and has already given the documentation to the AG's office.
"I already gave it to them," he said angrily. He said he has "no idea" why the AG's office is still pursuing charges against him.
Having so many dogs did not violate Forks ordinances. So now begins the long process of changing those laws, said Monohon.
"Well, we can't keep going the way we've been," he said. "If there's been a loophole like and somebody comes in and sets up this shelter like what Steve had - we don't want that again. I mean, I wouldn't wish that on anyone."