Arizona Humane Society completes examination of dogs; some malnourishment, atrophy discovered
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Arizona Humane Society Veterinarian Dr. Melissa Thompson and AHS Veterinary Technician Brad Perryman examine one of the dogs. Arizona Humane Society

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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FORKS — The Arizona Humane Society has completed its examination of Steve Markwell’s former Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs, which numbered 124 when he arrived at an Arizona animal shelter on Christmas Eve.

Many of the approximately 100 dogs examined by the Humane Society were malnourished, some were dangerously aggressive and some had muscle atrophy in their hind legs consistent with having a lack of movement and being underweight, Humane Society spokeswoman Bretta Nelson said Monday.

The examinations were completed Friday.

“Malnourishment and muscle atrophy were the main conditions we diagnosed,” Nelson said.

“The process was slow-moving because the dogs were not handled very frequently.

“We had to move really slow and gain their trust.”

At least 30 of the 124 dogs — some of which did not have names — had been placed with rescue groups as of Monday, said Robert Misseri, president of the animal welfare group Guardians of Rescue, which is overseeing the animals’ care.

The Humane Society veterinarian who helped oversee the medical examinations was not available for comment Monday.

But according to a veterinary technician who examined about half the animals, the dogs’ Body Condition Score ranged from 2 to 5, with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese, Nelson said.

Misseri said their condition was better than anticipated.

“The dogs aren’t as sickly as most people expected,” he said.

Markwell, who founded the Forks-based Olympic Animal Sanctuary, did not return calls for comment Monday.

He has not spoken publicly since loading the dogs from his sanctuary warehouse in Forks onto a climate-controlled, dog-crate-filled 53-foot trailer Dec. 21 and driving to Golden Valley, Ariz.

He arrived three days later at the Rescued Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation Shelter, where the dogs have been fed, kenneled and examined — and where he turned over ownership of the animals to Guardians of Rescue.

Markwell had been under constant fire from animal-welfare advocates from across the country who have alleged he cared for the animals under inhumane conditions.

He has denied mistreating the dogs, most of which are considered unadoptable by families because the animals are too aggressive.

The dogs examined by the Humane Society received vaccinations and other shots, though many had been dewormed and received rabies shots in November, before Markwell left Forks, Nelson said.

This was not a run-of-the-mill incident for the Arizona Humane Society to handle, said Nelson, who has worked for the organization for 3 years.

“While we respond to lots of different emergency cases, wildfires or hoarding cases, 124 dogs traveling through various states is something I haven’t seen in my time,” she said.

“It’s very unique in that regard.”

The tractor and trailer that he drove about 1,300 miles to the shelter remained on the property Monday.

Misseri said he did not know when Markwell will pick them up.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at

Last modified: January 06. 2014 8:26PM
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