Dogs from Forks unloaded at site on Arizona-Nevada border
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— Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Protesters picket in front of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks on Dec. 12. The dogs from the shelter would later be hauled from the site in a tractor-trailer. The animals arrived Tuesday at a site near the Arizona-Nevada border.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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Who are the Guardians?

By Arwyn Rice

Peninsula Daily News

Who are the Guardians of Rescue, the organization overseeing the dispersal of dogs from Olympic Animal Sanctuary?

Members of the Smithtown, N.Y., organization arranged the reception Tuesday for the 124 dogs — many of which are known to have attacked people or other animals in the past — that arrived in a tractor-trailer rig from the sanctuary in Forks.

The Guardians of Rescue is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010.

It has become known for reaching far beyond its New York home to help animals in need.

It is an all-volunteer organization with 20 members, according to its president, Robert Misseri.

In September, Guardians of Rescue made national headlines when they organized the importation of eight dogs — a mother and her nearly-grown puppies — that were adopted by an Army unit while serving in Afghanistan.

In May, they spearheaded efforts to rescue pets in Moore, Okla., after an EF-5 tornado destroyed a large portion of the city.

Under the Guardians' “Paws of War” program, volunteers rescue dogs from military base animal shelters where animals are left behind by deployed soldiers who could not find other arrangements, and retrains them as therapy dogs for returning veterans.

In March, the Fort Bragg, N.C., animal shelter was entirely emptied of dogs by Guardians volunteers.

Guardians of Rescue provides field shelters for feral cats and dogs and assists animal shelters in their needs, including improvements to facilities and organization.

The group also provides veterinary care and pet food for pet owners in need due to a catastrophic event or economic emergency.

Through the “Sheltering Arms” program, Guardians of Rescue is developing a “shelter certification” that will be awarded to those animal care facilities that uphold a stringent series of standards for animal care, including unannounced inspections for maintenance of the certification.

“Operation Support Our Troops” helps returning service men and women adopt a dog or cat from an animal shelter, and “Animals Helping People” provides information and resources relating to the training, treatment and placement of therapy dogs.

For more information about Guardians of Rescue or to donate funds to help feed, house and distribute the Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs, phone 888-287-3864 or visit the organization's website at


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at
FORKS — Dogs from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks were unloaded Tuesday from a semi truck driven by director Steve Markwell to an Arizona-Nevada border dispersal point, said the president of a rescue group aiding the relocation.

“The dogs are alive,” said Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, the Smithtown, N.Y.-based rescue organization that is organizing the care and dispersal of the dogs to other rescue operations at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Misseri would not identify the location of the dispersal point.

He said that he wants to talk with Markwell and representatives of rescue organizations before he releases the location.

He also said that photographs of the arrival and the dogs were expected to be available today (Wednesday).

“It will be quite some time before we get everything under control,” Misseri said.

Misseri said that volunteers had accounted for at least 120 dogs, and a final count will be completed after the “controlled chaos” ends.

The location of the remote meeting spot has been described as being “an hour from anywhere.”

Markwell left Forks early Saturday morning driving a semi with a 53-foot trailer loaded with an estimated 124 dogs that had been housed in a two-story, 4,000-square-foot warehouse at 1021 Russell Road.

Misseri said that Markwell contacted him about the trip after he got on the road.

Misseri said Sunday that he was meeting him at a place in “a warmer climate,” where dogs could be given to animal rescue groups that were asked not to reveal the meeting place.

Since 2008, Markwell has been taking in “bad dogs” from across the nation, canines that have been deemed dangerous and would otherwise be euthanized.

Markwell has been under pressure from animal rights activists since Dec. 2, including pickets and protests outside the warehouse.

Protesters, who displayed online photos said to have been taken inside the warehouse, said that Markwell had neglected the dogs.

Markwell has repeatedly denied that the dogs have been mistreated in any way.

Aside from the Hurricane Sandy rescues in 2012, this is the largest operation for Guardians of Rescue to date, Misseri said.

“We've had large rescues, and we've had complicated ones. But this is by far the largest, and most complicated rescue we have ever done,” Misseri said Tuesday afternoon.

Eight Guardians of Rescue affiliate volunteers from California spent two days setting up 10-foot by 10-foot kennels for the dogs, he said.

The dogs will each be placed in separate kennels, receive a full veterinary exam and will have microchips implanted.

Then they will await rescue organizations to take them to a final sanctuary situation.

“From what we understand, these dogs cannot simply be re-homed. They have attacked humans and killed other dogs,” Misseri said.

Misseri said Tuesday that he has been in contact with rescue organizations equipped to take OAS dogs, most of which have a history of violence toward humans or other dogs, and cannot be released to “typical” animal rescue organizations.

Once the list of dogs is complete, some breed-specific rescue organizations may be asked to take dogs that fit their breed requirements.

They will be kept at the Nevada-Arizona location until rescue organizations pick them up, he said.

The organization is short on kennels and needs more to house all of the dogs, and there are some dogs that will chew through a hurricane-fence kennel, and will need other housing arrangements, he said.

Information on how to donate kennels to Guardians of Rescue will be released as soon as arrangements are made with Lowe's Home Improvement, from which the organization is purchasing kennel materials, Misseri said.

Purchases have added up into the thousands of dollars, he said.

Rescue organizations prepared to handle the dogs' special needs are asked to contact Guardians of Rescue.

For more information about Guardians of Rescue or to donate funds to help feed, house, provide medical care and distribute the OAS dogs, phone 888-287-3864 or visit the organization's website,


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: December 25. 2013 1:01AM
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