Part 2: Steve Markwell and His Death-Row Dogs in Crisis—Are They Worth Saving?

Posted by on April 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

oas wolf hybrid kodiak

[Read the latest news from December 24, 2013, about the OAS dogs. Read Part 3 of this series on OAS.]

A lot has been said about Steve Markwell and his shelter for last-resort dogs, Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS). Media around the country, from People Magazine to public radio to the LA Times, have lauded Markwell for his innovative work handling primarily fear-aggressive and feral dogs most ordinary shelters would not dare keep alive, let alone try to rehabilitate. Critics, most recently on a Facebook page, have accused Markwell of—you name it—hoarding, abusing, starving, and profiting from his death-row dogs. At least one person has suggested he killed several feral coyote hybrids he took into OAS last summer after being contacted for help from a shelter out of state. I asked the creators of the FB page for an interview over a week ago and still have not received a response.

Sunday, April 14, I traveled to OAS, in Forks, Washington, with two professional dog trainers from Western Washington, Judith and David Bell. They specialize in working with “growly dogs” that have mostly fear-based aggression issues, and they are widely respected in Western Washington, working regularly with dogs and their people on Bainbridge Island and across King, Kitsap, Clallam, and Jefferson Counties.

Inside OAS

oas front door

OAS front door

I had never met Markwell but had interviewed him and researched OAS for a story (published April 9, 2013), with the intention of doing a followup piece inside OAS. Lacking a staff, camera crew, helicopter, and funding, I made the trip when I was able, which happened to be last weekend. I called Markwell Saturday night to ask if the Bells and I could visit the next day, and he obliged us on short notice. Arriving at lunchtime at the front of OAS, I took in the scene: an unpaved rain-ravaged muddy area with a massive pile of straw in front of an unadorned industrial building with a “dangerous dog” warning sign on the front door. OAS is housed in a former logging truck shop. Markwell and a volunteer were cleaning metal water buckets when we walked up.

Main kennels

Main kennels

The dogs inside the building, housed mostly in back-to-back kennels in the main center of the room, greeted us with a cacophony of barks. Some snarled, a few cowered, and some perked up and jockeyed for friendly attention. The room was bright and not as smelly as I had expected considering Olympic Animal Sanctuary is home to 128 dogs. Each kennel had fresh water, a bowl of kibble, and straw-lined flooring. Most of the dogs were paired in the kennels, but some were alone. The single-dog kennels were 5-by-5 feet, and the doubles were twice that size. Many of the dogs were chewing on turkey neck treats.

On the periphery there were dogs in crates, some stacked two high. Some of these areas were unlit, squalid, and through my human eyes disturbing. Many of the dogs from these crates were the most vicious barkers, and they made it clear they did not want human attention. Markwell explained that many of the crated dogs have severe problems, such as intense resource guarding, severe fear of and/or aggression toward other dogs, or paralyzing fear of open exposure. His ultimate goal is to work with them until they are able to be moved into kennels.

Shirley (top) does severe resource guarding so was moved from a kennel to a crate. One of the Clearwater hounds, Lila (bottom) is shy and undersocialized. She was moved to a crate because she beats up other dogs. She gets along better when outside.

Shirley (top) does severe resource guarding so was moved from a kennel to a crate. One of the Clearwater hounds, Lila (bottom) is shy and undersocialized. She was moved to a crate because she beats up other dogs. She gets along better when outside.

Several small rooms with sliding doors ran along one wall, across from the main kennels. They were more sound-proof areas about 7 by 9 feet in dimension. The room at the end contained three dogs and Markwell’s bed. He had told me he sleeps in a kennel, and I asked to see it. To call it bare bones would be extravagant.

Markwell’s Room

Why does he sleep in a kennel, I asked. Allowing dogs to hang out with him in close contact in a nonthreatening situation is part of his training process. He explained that he rotates dogs, depending on their stage of rehabilitation, so that ones who would benefit from the indirect contact get that kind of trust-building socialization. I asked Markwell if he has ever regretted having a dog sleep in his room, and he said he has woken up having his foot bitten. “I shake it off and go back to sleep.” His scarred arms confirm what he told me before about having been bitten hundreds of times. Many of the dogs eventually snuggle up on the bed. “Most of them, no matter what they’ve been through, want some kind of connection with people,” he told me.

Steve Markwell's kennel bedroom

Steve Markwell’s kennel bedroom

The other reason that Markwell sleeps in a kennel is that the building doesn’t have a bedroom, and he hasn’t wanted to spend the money he gets for the dogs to build one. It doesn’t have a kitchen either, so he grabs food on the fly. When I interviewed him for my first article he was catching a cheap late dinner out.

Meeting the Coyote Hybrids

When we went upstairs to meet the coyote hybrids, Markwell suggested I keep them in my peripheral vision and not try to touch them. “They are feral animals, and unlike with domesticated, socialized dogs, they will interpret smiling as baring your teeth and direct eye contact as a challenge,” he explained.

Markwell with coyote hybrids

Markwell followed by coyote hybrids

The simple upstairs room has medium lighting and a plywood floor covered in straw. Three of the walls are partially lined with crates, some closed and some open. Three coyote dogs greeted me with suspicious interest as we entered. I sat next to Markwell on the floor, letting the canines sniff me over. I got a few tongue flicks on my hand and was treated to a high compliment when a skittish boy named Lester laid down nearby and closed his eyes. Waldo eventually took a nap too, but Wanda stared from a distance. Markwell explained that she has not allowed humans to touch her since her capture from her wild pack. “She was terrorized by a trainer with something to prove who wrestled her to the ground in an attempt to assert his dominance. That was her first physical contact with a human. When I brought her here I got worried because for weeks she wouldn’t come out of her crate. I would clean it with a pole. Eventually I took the top off, and she came out. She’s never gone back in,” said Markwell.

Wanda, the coyote hybrid

Coyote hybrid Wanda

Markwell explained that he gives all of the dogs in the room time out of their crates in shifts and groupings that get along. Four of the dogs in the room are American Eskimos seized from a puppy mill that was shut down. “There were hundreds of dogs there. They would breed the females twice a year until they died. A lot of them were in stacked shopping carts.” He explained that he has found placements for four of the Eskies he took and hopes to soon place two more, leaving two at OAS. They peeked out of the crates as we talked.

Meeting the Wolf Hybrids

Judith and Kodiak

Judith and wolf-dog Kodiak

The OAS property has three large grassy fenced areas. One is home to two wolf mixes. The Bells and I scratched the head of Kodiak, a large friendly male who had no history of aggression but had been surrendered because he was too much to deal with for the person who bought him from an unscrupulous breeder. The other wolf dog, a smaller female named Jill, was friendly but high strung and paced in front of us. The two have access inside but spend most of their time out. Markwell explained, “They are pretty well-socialized, but they see humans as their equals and will knock you down if they want.” He offered to let us into their area with the understanding that they might push us over. We decided we were content scratching Kodiak through the chain-link fence. Markwell explained that he separates them from the dogs because, like any wolf, they would kill the dogs if given the chance.

OAS dog yard

OAS dog yard, empty of dogs because we were visiting.

We asked Markwell how often the dogs get outdoor time in the other yards. He said for the ones who want to go outside he gives them shifts (optimally once a day) as often as he can manage, which is less lately because of his lack of staff help due to money troubles. Other dogs, he explained, cower and run for cover if placed outside. These are the dogs so traumatized they feel frightened and vulnerable in exposed situations—the ones in the crates. “This is something that many people have difficulty understanding. Many damaged dogs come in agoraphobic. They want to hide. People see crated dogs and they think it’s cruel, but it is what these dogs choose,” said Markwell.

Judith Bell told me later, “As a trainer one of the biggest problems I have with people that have fearful dogs is that they try to fix the problem by exposing the dog to its fear too fast too soon. This floods the dog and triggers its fear response, reinforcing unwanted behavior. You want to avoid triggers that push dogs beyond their threshold point as you decondition fear. I try to help my clients understand that counter-conditioning work needs to be gradual and depends on the needs of the particular dog.”

crated dog

Addressing Criticism

Hoarding

I asked Markwell, as I had before, about accusations of hoarding. He explained that he has not taken additional dogs for the last six months, except for a couple he had previously committed to taking. He expressed frustration that shelters and individuals pressure him repeatedly to “save” their animals. As before, he told me he wants to find no-kill placements for his dogs who can handle it so he can downsize, and he thinks with the work he has done a few more of his dogs might be ready for adoption into regular homes. He has hired two full-time workers to help him haul out some things he has stored at OAS to make more room for additional kennels to provide the option of more space for his crated dogs. With financial help, he hopes to continue employing staff to do daily maintenance, such as cleaning and feeding.

Given that some of the classic signs of sanctuary hoarding, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), are not saying no to new dogs, not allowing outsiders in, and not disclosing the number of animals you have, Markwell does not fit the profile of a hoarder. The Bells told me they regard Markwell as a person who has been overwhelmed with requests from around the country for help with tough-case dogs who is struggling to care for them because of dwindling funds and a resulting lack of consistent staffing.

Steve and Nala

Steve and Nala the Ridgeback

Abuse

As for abuse, based on my observations and those of the Bells, the traumatized dogs in Markwell’s care trust and love him. And to witness him speak about, advocate for, and interact with them shows his devotion to them. Markwell can, without hesitation, name and tell the history of any dog in the sanctuary you ask him about. His undeniable bond with the dogs in his care is quite a gift when you consider their backgrounds—histories of being beaten, chained, tormented, and abandoned; putting people in emergency care; killing other dogs and animals; and/or living feral lives isolated from people.

Nala, a large Rhodesian Ridgeback relinquished from her family because of her biting, stood up to greet Markwell as we walked by her kennel. I took an unstaged photograph of their affectionate hello.

Peanut with Micah and Ellie in back

Peanut with Micah and Ellie in back

David Bell, who, like me, had not met Markwell before, said this about him after our visit to OAS: “He is well-intentioned, good-hearted, and very skilled with animals. I think some of the dogs in crates is a product of him having been asked to do too much without enough help. All of these dogs were damaged before they arrived at OAS.”

Judith Bell said, “If Steve were adequately funded and properly documented I think the work he is doing could be groundbreaking in animal behavioral science.”

Starvation

The dogs at OAS looked well-fed to all three of us. See for yourself in photos. If you dont see water bowls it is because they were being cleaned. (Click photos to enlarge.)

Financial Exploitation

Regarding the accusation that Markwell is benefitting financially and killing the coyote hybrids: enough said.

False Appearances?

Did Markwell clean up for our arrival? I expect so; however, given that we gave him short notice on the weekend he couldn’t have done much. Maybe fresh straw was laid, and maybe bowls got cleaned out.

Why Take the Bad Dogs?

Hank and Alex

Hank (declared dangerous by the state) and Alex

Judith Bell asked Markwell why he thinks it’s worth putting energy and money into OAS when most of its dogs will never reach a level of rehabilitation to be adoptable.

Markwell gave this response: “I don’t think these animals should be morally accountable for what they do. This is a problem of human creation. It is irresponsible to punish or kill them; they deserve other considerations. I don’t like it when people say money could be diverted to shelters that can adopt out. OAS is a last-resort sanctuary. We’re all trying to help animals; here we’re helping the ‘bad’ ones.”

The Bottom Line: OAS in Jeopardy

OAS dog closeupMarkwell needs money. A perfect storm of financial misfortune has befallen OAS, from a payroll tax change instituted in January, to rising supplies and operating costs, to losing some staff, to the sluggish economy. Markwell needs help to keep OAS going—help right now.

The good news for his dogs is that a donor, Eileen Schmitz, has offered Markwell a 10-acre property on a zero-payment lease arrangement in Clallam County. Markwell’s biggest challenge is raising the funds to set up a new facility there, which he estimates will cost about $100,000.

The other good news is that several people—Eileen Schmitz, David and Judith Bell, Hope and Jim Williams, and others—have just formed an advisory committee to assist Markwell with fundraising, management, and long-term planning, all things they believe he should not have to do himself given how much work he needs to do with the dogs in his care. Yesterday, April 15, as a start this group donated $1,500 to provide OAS with immediate assistance.

Seattle volunteers

Seattle volunteers

As we were leaving OAS, three young women who work in different animal rescue organizations in Seattle arrived. They had made the five-hour (each way) journey to Forks to help Markwell with chores. I asked them what motivated them to come all that way, and they all said that Steve had helped them in the past and they wanted to return the favor.

The Long-Term Outlook

Markwell is tired. He knows without more help he will lose OAS. And if OAS closes, he believes, as do the Bells and others I have spoken with in animal rescue, that the majority of the 128 dogs will be euthanized.

Currently Markwell estimates that he needs $4,000 a week to keep things running properly—at a better level of cleanliness and care than he has been able to provide for a while.

If Markwell can stabilize in his current situation, his next steps are to make a plan and raise funds for moving to the larger location with fewer dogs. He envisions the new facility starting out with a temporary large building with modular kennels.

Kodiak, Steve, and Judith and David Bell

Kodiak, Steve, and Judith and David Bell

“Every animal or two animals would have their own climate-controlled space with outdoor access and an automatic water supply. There would be sound-reducing features and laundry facilities to wash about 200 blankets a day.” Unlike the current building, which is difficult to clean because it is two stories, Markwell would make the new building one story for cleaning efficiency. “It would make it much easier to mop and wash down,” he said.

Want to donate to OAS? An account has just been created to accept direct donation deposits in Port Angeles, Washington, at First Federal Bank, 141 W. First Street, 360-452-6620. Mail or call in your donations for Olympic Animal Sanctuary. You also can donate through the OAS Donation Page or by sending a check to Olympic Animal Sanctuary, P.O. Box 3044, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

A documentary film screening of Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent will be held in Seattle on May 30 at the Varsity Theater as a fundraiser for OAS. Purchase tickets.

Read Part 3 of this series on OAS. 

Read the latest on OAS: Olympic Animal Sanctuary Offers to Shut Down If Best Friends Animal Society Accepts Its Dogs

Related Stories

Featured photo of OAS wolf hybrid Kodiak. All photos by Julie Hall, taken April 14, 2013. 

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Part 2: Steve Markwell and His Death-Row Dogs in Crisis—Are They Worth Saving?, 4.4 out of 5 based on 22 ratings

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Categorized | Animals, Community, Organizations

61 Responses to “Part 2: Steve Markwell and His Death-Row Dogs in Crisis—Are They Worth Saving?”

  1. I am so grateful to you for being objective in your observations & reporting the truth from all sides. I pray that this story wakes up the NUMEROUS other shelters & rescues that have expected Steve to "clean up our messes" & then just walked away. The only time most of us think about Steve is when we need him but no one seems to think about what he & the dogs need. Now you can see what I told you is true. Steve lives like a pauper, & there is nothing those dogs are living in that he is not right there with them. I know for a fact that there are times he goes without eating to feed those animals "his babies" Washington state needs to get involved, not just the Penninsula, hopefully this serves as a wake up call for all. I know 2 years ago he had a 6-month waiting list… not the action of a hoarder; a hoarder would take them all right now. He doesn't advertise dogs that are adoptable, he quietly shifts them out to other rescues or adopters, but he also realizes full well you gotta get some out before you bring anymore in.

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    • Hope Williams says:

      Bravo to your comments on Julie Hall's very fine article!

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  2. Hope Williams says:

    Bravo Julie Hall for your insightful article that balances a sympathetic eye and objective view and word in describing the dogs of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary and the talented, articulate and caring Steve Markwell who has nothing but the best in mind for his charges but minimal resources to do his work. The dogs and Steve need our help now and in the future. Your article will help spread the word to help make their future not only possible but brighter. Thank you!

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  3. Karen F says:

    Thank you for your clear and thoughtful reporting. It is rare to see a piece that at once methodically addresses claims made by an attacker, and goes well beyond them to identify the real problem and the remedy.

    As an OAS supporter who has followed Steve Markwell's work for several years, I have believed all along not just in what he was doing, but how he was doing it. However, I have been concerned that he was likely underfunded and, now that we know that is the case, I hope the new advisory board will be effective.

    It is a wonderful irony that the chief result of the unseemly and disturbing hostility from Markwell's Facebook attacker may well be the help needed for OAS to thrive. I am so glad to see the steps being taken by the Washington rescue community, and will continue to donate to the sanctuary, with even greater appreciation for Markwell's accomplishments, compassion, and strength of character.

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  4. verthib says:

    They don't belong in TRAVEL kennels!! This "sanctuary" needs to be shut down once and for all !!

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  5. Anna says:

    This is a wonderful article, thank you SO SO much for putting this together. This is exactly what needed to be said, and coming from the best source. Although–not the most flattering photo of me :D

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    • redhare1064 says:

      Sorry. The sun was shining in your faces, and I couldn't really see what I was getting, though you all look pretty cute to me.

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  6. Peter First says:

    Oh Judith…."Did Markwell clean up for our arrival? I expect so; however, given that we gave him short notice on the weekend he couldn’t have done much. Maybe fresh straw was laid, and maybe bowls got cleaned out."……he had months and months notice to clean. Look at the comments on other articles—-apparently 3-8 rescues were out there all week helping.
    I think everyone is happy the dogs are living better now. I also think that most would agree—this will not last.

    Look at his tax returns—-has he hired people in the past?

    I do thank you for going.

    I think the people who are trying to initiate legal action were counseled not to do any interviews. Many reporters have asked.

    Clean today……I wish in my heart I could believe it would be clean tomorrow.

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  7. Jason says:

    Julie I appreciate your article, I do wish that when you first decided to write about The Olympic Animal Sanctuary, you would have gone in person, they've been allowed time to clean and sort some of the abuses out! I have pictures and videos as well, I've been there inside and out over 12 times, I witnessed dogs stacked as high as 4 crates, urine and feces from the upper dogs finding it's way down into the crates below, Dogs with open wounds, Dogs with broken teethe from trying to chew out of their crates, dead rodents in the bedding, dogs eating their own feces, green/black water, no crates with water at all, some kennels with water, urine/feces soaked hay, dogs living without sunlight and ventilation, dogs stacked under a stair case in a completely dark room with boxes of rotting flesh stored next to them, and a trainer I knew who had entered this building said they had to exit and vomit the smell was so enormous and fowl! again I appreciate your article, but you should also try and interview some of those with the allegations, Some of Steve's supporters are saying my photo's posted on Facebook are false, however some people have privately contacted me confirming some of the dogs in the photo's as the dogs they placed with the Olympic Animal Sanctuary!

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  8. Lets hope having an advisory committee will prevent OAS from taking in more dogs than can be provided for because that is the true problem and would be very curious how that works with the bylaws of OAS. Also curious about so called payroll taxes as none were listed in the last available 990 tax statement. Who is getting payroll there? Still does not explain or excuse why Markwell came and got a trailer full of dogs in late June 2012 when conditions were apparently so deplorable there and there was a lack of adequate housing, food, vet care for what OAS already had. Also, fyi, if dogs are kept in filty crates in a semi lit room for month after month they WILL develpe a fear of being outside of the crate. Keeping them in is NOT the way to rehabilitate. Allowing them safe access to a larger enclosed area is what should be going on – not stacking in crates. The DDI shepherds were very comfortable being outside in their very large kennel, together as a pack where they were learning from each other about trusting people. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=161185357

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  9. Jeff Slottow says:

    Steve's heroic efforts deserve public funding. There should be school field trips to OAS.

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    • Amy says:

      SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS? Many of these dogs are said to be human aggressive..where do you get THAT idea from? And if there is ANY question about sanitation/cleanliness, children are the LAST ones that belong there!

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  10. Robin says:

    Ive met Steve and think the world of him. He has helped me several times with a long lost dog that became somewhat feral after living in the woods. a german shepard whose owner died and he then bit someone at a shelter and a dog that was unpredictable. He has written letters to shelters begging for their lives , with me and
    shared my grief when they said no. Please help him recover from this unjust attack by donations and volunteering to help at the sanctuary.

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  11. UGH… I see the trolls have found their way to the article. People who will not publicly admit who they are, people who have created fake profiles to spew their hatred. Who won't give a face to face interview. I am so glad that so many can see past the nonsense

    I would like to say thank you to everyone who has stepped up to defend, volunteer & advocate for Olympic Animal Sanctuary, the animals, & Steve.

    To the person calling themselves save the DDI Shepherds… first off these are coyote hybrids, if you were in fact SO knowledgeable about them why did all of you fight so hard to get Steve to take them? I see a "pack" following behind Steve as their pack leader. I take mostly feral, hybrid & mill dogs & to me they look very content & confident. Are you aware that they are MOST comfortable in dens? That is their natural habitat. All I seen from their time in Cali is that everyone was intent on turning them into frisbee chasing apt dogs. Never going to happen, & it is dangerous to think anything else, that is why there are places like OAS.

    I would also like to ask you for a full accounting of ALL of the monies that were donated to help these dogs, please. Dorothy? Debbie? Anyone? I already have a partial list of donors & will be requesting that the California attorney general look into it as well. In Washington state we have slander & libel laws, you would do well to remember that since you are a business & property owner. (Yes I checked)

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    • Elizabeth says:

      "People who do not admit who they are, people who have created fake profiles to spew their hatred."
      Sound like you, Brandia….with a thousand different pages and blogs.

      BTW—you think you are the only one who can google? http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archiv

      YOU throw questions out like the world revolves around YOU. Some for you—Brandia—you said you were definately going last weekend to help at OAS. Did you? You said you were getting copious amounts of food. Did you? You said you were getting kennel parts for OAS. Did you?

      Julie, thank you for going back to the OAS and doing an in-person interview. Please go again in two weeks. And 4. The fact that dogs are locked in to crates (not given the choice to leave them if they want…which would go a long way toward rehabilitation) bothers me.

      I am sure the people on the OAS–Life inside the sanctuary page will speak to you when their council tells them they can.

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      • redhare1064 says:

        I do know the advisory board's number one goal is to get every dog who can deal with it out of a crate and give the others who aren't ready an open-space option to walk into when they are ready.

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        • MurphysMom says:

          It consists of the Bells, do you not know their number?

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  12. NoFan says:

    I disagree with what he is doing. This isn't the life that was intended for dogs. They are suffering no matter what he is doing. When you consider that good adoptable dogs are dying for a lack of space, this becomes an ethical issue as well. Why dedicate space to these when so many need space and they stand a chance of being adopted into homes. Misguided is what it is.

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  13. Jacki says:

    I am the owner of a fearful aggressive dog, one that would become one of these dogs if something ever happened to us. So I commend this guy for his effort. It's not the dogs' faults- many are a product of poor breeding that they had no control over!

    As for the travel kennels, I can tell you that if my dog had to be housed with other dogs and people, he would be so scared in an open kennel that he would probably shake constantly and pee himself. He would definitely feel safer in a small kennel without "see-through" sides. I didn't believe in crates and kennels before I had this dog, but now I can see that fearful dogs feel most secure in these tiny spaces which become their "dens". Until you spend time with dogs like these, I don't think you have any authority to judge.

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  14. Jason says:

    Trolls? Fake profiles? You mean people who have videos, photos and documentation of the abuses at the Olympic Animal Sanctuary! I told you (Finally Home Rescue) on your Facebook page who I was, you didn't like the facts and someone opposing your cheerleading of Steve, so you blocked me and deleted my comments that were only stating who I was and the facts defending some of the photo's I posted online. Why would you act that way if nothing to hide, I told you twice and I'll tell you again, my name is Jason, and I have been doing interviews! I'm also sharing my videos, photo's and documentations regarding the Olympic Animal Sanctuary with the appropriate sources, perhaps some people are a bit afraid of your good pal Steve since he walks around with a firearm strapped to his ankle, What kinda person running a sanctuary carries a loaded firearm? and why hasn't a board from the Sanctuary come forward to address the allegations and prove the photo's online are false? Why was the OAS Facebook page taken down? Why does the OAS Webpage not have any new updates since September 2012? You ( Finally Home Rescue or which ever of the 10 profiles you wanna use?) said that my photo's were staged and not taken at OAS, well dear, I've been personally contacted by people who seen my photos, seen the animals they had placed at OAS in those crates and was able to name them! They're quite concerned about these animals and Steve has been dodging their calls, Steve owes it to the community to be transparent and accountable, that is not asking too much, he has had sufficient funding (look at the tax records), he's had good honest people offer to help and he's kept them at bay, he wants people who will keep his secret in the dark, how do I know these things, I've been there inside and out 12 times! you may have silenced me on your Facebook page, but you don't have that control here. Right now why you and I debate who's telling the truth and who's doing what, 120 plus dogs are suffering! Jule Hall again I appreciate your article, can you tell your audience where the rest of the dogs were when you visited? in your photo's we see about maybe 15-20? where's the other 100+?

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  15. What The says:

    These dogs live in pens and crates with only one person taking care of them. Large active dogs in small pens and crates. This is a dog prison. Look at these pictures, and they are after it was cleaned up. These dogs aren't even getting outside by his own admission. There's always a steady stream of stories. very emotional but not connected to the reality that these dogs are emprisoned waiting to die. Have any of these people going along with this heard of enabling? It didn't take me long to look around online and see that he was complaining about having problems many years ago and it was always just him, with excuses still going on now. Always hopes, always plans. For crying out loud, advisory board don't enable. Is anyone connected to reality here? Does anyone really care? No more dogs and get these dogs some actual enrichment and excercise!

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  16. What The says:

    David and Judith Bell, are you going to establish some rules here and make sure they are followed immediately and that these dogs get enrichment and no more are added, or will this turn into another Spindletop?He HAS been continuing to add more dogs. He said so. Are you going to make sure that the stories you were told about some of these dogs getting placed are real? Judith, I hope I am not hearing you making excuses for dogs emprisoned in crates. This situation needs hand-on, constant supervision by you, not stories told from a distance. There wasn't any homework done here about the past which is like the present, and a lot is being taken at face value with lots of excuses.

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  17. Roberta Baxter says:

    And there but for the grace of God go I! Trolls go there to volunteer. Trolls donate every time you get an email from Steve, like I do. Help and keep the OAS going with support, volunteering, prayers and goodness not condemnation. Not everyone is helping when they can. Steve needs help.

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    • What The says:

      Roberta, do you understand that you are enabling these dogs caged in pens and crates waiting to die? The answer is that he needs to reduce head count NOW. He can't take care of these dogs. There are way too many. Prayers aren't stopping the cruelty. Something needs to happen NOW. This is cruelty and just sitting around praying and hoping is just keeping it going. Sending him money without personally supervising this situation is enabling.it. He has always has lots of stories. Is this telling you anything? Is a little alarm going off in your intellect that sitting and enabling is perpetuating the cruelty? There simply is not enough help to maintain this high number of dogs and they are the victims of this stubborness and refusal to change.

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    • loni says:

      Roberta – he needs a LOT of hired staff, trainers, rehabiliters and many full time volunteers. Running an animal sanctuary for special needs dogs takes a lot of money, manpower and resources. Markwell has made some good money and unfortunately, according to OAS tax returns, spends more on 'stuff' that he does not specifiy instead of vet services for he dogs and paid employees. Prayers are nice but what he really needs to do is find another occupation and get all of these dogs into legit sanctuaries that do have the resources to care for them. Dying slow painful deaths is not the answer.

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  18. Jung says:

    I have made several small insignificant donations to OAS for the past 2-3 years. I wanted to do more for them, which meant I needed some hard facts. Thanks for the article because I did not even know how many dogs he was caring for, how much money was needed and raised, how many staffs he had, and how much he gives to himself. ASPCA CEO gets greater than $500,000 for the amount money she raises. I checked with Charity Navigator and since OAS raises below 1 million, OAS was not given a full evaluation. However, based on 2011 tax return, OAS raised $151,221. Needing $4000 a week ($12,000 a month), it leaves very little money for the OAS CEO. I would like to believe that his intention for the dogs are good. He needs money to hire staffs to look after the dogs well. He needs give himself a salary. He needs to be transparent.

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    • What The says:

      The dogs come first. Why are you concerned about salary? He doesn't have another job, am I right? His bills are paid through donations right? The suffering dogs need to be addressed first. I can't understand why you would be concerned about his salary when big active dogs are caged in crates and pens waiting to die.

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    • Peter says:

      Jung—we would love full disclosure—receipts—on the exact amount spent per month. Food/vetting/upkeep.
      Reportedly, none of the money (according to tax returns) has been taken for salaries. There is nothing wrong with taking money for salaries—-but that has to be reported. And contributors must be aware of where their money is going.

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      • Jung says:

        Peter,
        Yes, I would love to see where the money is going but not to the pennies nor even in 1000's. Higher % of raised money should go to care for the dogs as opposed to fund raising (30% in ASPCA) expenses. importantly, it would be nice to know how fast OAS is growing as in number of animals and how the fund raising goals are meeting the needs. But, since I also support local animal shelters in Snohomish county, I do not know any group supply with me with a full disclosure. OAS is not unique in that it does not provide supporters with its financial statement.

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        • Sally says:

          Many shelters publish their statistics online so that anyone who wants to, can view the number of intake animals, the number adopted, the number pulled by rescue groups, the number remaining at the current time within the shelter. Seems you are all working blind and throwing money at Steve Markwell whenever he cries poor but he has to balance his books and the number of dogs by learning to say no otherwise he's never going to learn and outsiders will never know. And what if something happens to Steve Markwell – then what? What's the back up plan for all those precious animals?

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    • Jung says:

      What The- His salary did not come first. It was the last thing I mentioned. What is your solution to care for the dogs well?? Steve is far more hands-on CEO than any other animal shelter charity organizations (as far as I can assess). His primary job at this stage for OAS could be to raise more money, hire and train good staffs, i.e. more administrative chores that are removed from his first love, I would imagine. Since OAS has an external advisory board according to the article, I am sure they will steer the OAS is a direction that the outcome is what you and other dog loving people desire. Better care for the dogs. If you have a good solution without involving $$$$$$$,, please suggest it now so that the external advisory committee has some inputs. I do not know any other charity organizations in the Washington state that discloses any financial information. Does any one know???

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  19. Jason says:

    Roberta Baxter- People have been trying to help, Steve only allows help from those ( a minority) who will keep his secret in the dark, look at his tax records $451,000 donated! these dogs/animals deserve better, can we agree on that? in your post and most of Steve's supporters I rarely (if at all) hear anything about the Animals, where is their voice?! I'm sick of hearing poor Steve this and poor Steve that, give him more money, give him more, excuse after excuse, WHAT ABOUT THE ANIMALS! Steve took money from people, money meant for the welfare of those animals, he has failed them and the rescue/sanctuary community!

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    • table25 says:

      ?Where did you see $451,000? I looked up OAS 990s and each year was about $151,000 in income… maybe I am missing something???

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      • Jason says:

        Tally up 4 years, it comes up above $451,000. Thats more than enough money for a Sanctuary his size, especially when animals are living in crates, he's admitted to that, add in your not feeding them properly and well you have pocket money.

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        • Mary Dunn says:

          You are unbelievable. You must be a democrat – only they can think like that. You're so smart – here's a word problem for you. Johnny runs an animal sanctuary that takes $4000 a week to maintain. Over four years, or 208 weeks, big hearted donors gave, say $500,000 (I'm being generous). How long can Johnny run the sanctuary on the money he has? Do you see the problem? He admitted he couldn't feed them properly and was looking for help. How much did you ever do for them? How much did you donate? Jason, you grew up with too much.

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  20. table25 says:

    I enjoyed reading this article… found it extremely interesting. Fascinating work.

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  21. Peter says:

    Julie Hall—if you are going back, please make sure you see every room—the "new addition", the trailer on the truck, etc. Not just the main room. Walk around and take pictures of the dogs living in the rooms with the glass doors—no ventilation?—do they get out for a walk or run? Ever?
    Most of all—do the math, Julie.
    130 dogs—-should go out 2 X day—many who cannot go out with other dogs. Even operating on a 24 hour a day schedule, there is not enough time in a day to let them all out.
    Then, of course, we have the "aggressive" and "feral" dogs, who OAS says are worked with and rehab'd….taking more time.
    Plus, cleaning/feeding/watering/adoption.

    Too many taken in—overextended—no time.
    But, hey, let's move them to a bigger facility–where more dogs can be taken in…..hurray! Even less time per dog, more donations needed.

    This is NOT the only place who takes in hybrids, "aggressives", and "ferals". It is just one of the worst.

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  22. Patty says:

    I have a friend that was attacked by a 150lb Mastiff a large dog, animal control wouldn't even come out to take the dog. We were on the verge of finding a way to shoot the dog – yet again the police would not come out, animal control would not come out. We were stuck. One call to Steve and he jumped right in his truck and drove 4 hours and within 20 minutes was able to capture the dog and was on his way. This dog is now alive and safe and with Steve. I love and respect what he does. The haters need to help rather then hinder his work.

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    • MurphysMom says:

      ANd do you know the status of the Mastiff Now? Is it crammed into one of those travel crates, hopeless and helpless? or do you believe his fairy tales of running swimming and being free?

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  23. Carolyn Edwards says:

    The "Haters"referred to in several of these letters,and their facebook page,are "Animal Rights Activist" Do-Gooders,they expend several hours of their time,attacking other people in the dog-world,be it rescues,responsible dog breeders,trainers,etc.It was good to see,fair unbiased reporting on this,and yes,is the situation ideal?probably not,but at the end of the day,if they feel they can pick up the pieces,of the numerous,poorly bred,raised&trained dogs,who are an "Extreme Danger",to people,society,young children,give some credit to what he is trying to accomplish.In my opinion,i would just euthanize these animals,as they are very dangerous.I was mauled on my arm over two yrs. ago by one of these sweet little pooches,the local "Humane Society turned loose for adoption to an older couple,a "Pitt"/Sharpei/Husky cross,they had contacted me for OB training,the dog had their 20 yr. old grandson,pinned down to his room in their house.They brought him out for training,could not control him,he came after me,i had put up my arm for defense,as he was going for my head,and face.The humane society came by their house a few days later,admitted a miscall on assesing temperment,and euthanized him.Most of your "Animal Rights Zealots",whom i refer to as "Buffy"1,2,3,are totally clueless,on how to deal with these types of dangerous animals,at least i am getting a distinct impression Steve doesInstead of wasting so much energy on attacking,(which the zealots usually do),ask your friends to donate sometime,or better yet get out from behind your comfy little computers,and pick up a Poop Scoop!If these dangerous dogs end up in other shelters,or rescues,they are not trained to asses temperment correctly,or are skilled to,If so much energy was spent on educating the "Ignorant Joe Public",to not breed these dangerous animals in the first place,then this scenario would not be needed.

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  24. MurphysMom says:

    Taking so called dangerous dogs and stuffing them into tiny crates where their anxiety is amplified is not caring for them. Taking in Puppy Mill dogs out of TINY cages only to put them in travel crates and stack them up is NOT giving them a better life. By this reporters own words the sight of those dogs in the travel crates was disturbing. And she at least admitted that there was fresh straw laid just before her arrival, so no she didn't see the urine and feces that the dogs have been forced to lay in. Look at the pictures people where are the 128 dogs? The few in the kennels do not amount to more than how many? so where are the rest housed….?….In travel crates and that is unacceptable.

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  25. stophoarders says:

    OAS's TAX RETURNS are very telling – Markwell should downsize to '0' and find another way to make a living. Any legitimate shelter, rescue or sanctuary puts the needs of the animals first, recognizes when capacity to provide care is exceeded, and takes the required steps (stopping intake, increasing adoption, increasing staff or resources) in order to provide proper care. Two model sanctuaries show what is required to put the needs of animals first in a caregiving setting [Click here for Best Friends Sanctuary] and [Click here for Farm Sanctuary]. Both organizations encourage visitors, volunteers, and transparency. The diagram at the right illustrates the difference between competent caregiving and substandard care.

    Several sanctuary associations publish codes of ethics, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians is developing guidelines for standards of care. The Cat Fancier's Association, a national trade group for cat breeders, advises breeders who may be facing difficulty providing proper care to contact them for help.

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    • Mary Dunn says:

      Best Friends – what is their income, staff, grounds, supplies, in-kind donations? And Farm Sanctuary? This is a one man show – he admitted defeat. What more do you all want from him?

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  26. MurphysMom says:

    Given the information below…I can not fathom how he feels or Anyone can feel that it is okay to allow those dogs to live in travel crates for a week let alone years as he has done. As an author I would have thought Julie Hall would have taken a more unbiased stand on this: Was any research done by her? Were the Bell's not disgusted at the conditions? Any credible animals rights org. or advocate would not condone dogs living in travel crates:

    Studies have shown that long-term confinement is detrimental to the physical and psychological well-being of animals. Animals caged for extended periods can develop many different disorders, including the following:

    Aggression
    Withdrawal
    Hyperactivity
    Depression
    Eating disorders
    Obsessive licking
    Separation anxiety
    Inability to bond with humans
    Muscle atrophy

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  27. Judith Bell says:

    David Bell and I, Judith Bell, resigned from the OAS advisory committee last week. We will no longer be contributing money or time to OAS.

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    • Elizabeth says:

      Judith and David—Whatever made you change your mind…..I don't know…..but am relieved!!!
      Good for you to put a statement up on a public blog…..that takes guts!

      I applaud you!!!

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  28. Jean says:

    If cameras had showed up to a "dog breeders" property and found these kinds of conditions everyone would be up in arms, and the torches and pitchforks would be coming out. This is dispicable. This guy should be charged with animal neglect, cruelty and charity fraud. People defending him are sick in the head. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

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  29. Petey First says:

    Investigative report on Olympic Animal Sanctuary……..Thank you Jeff Burnside!

    “Sanctuary of Sorrow”

    airs Monday, 11pm Pacific Time, September 23, 2013. You can watch it live streaming online at:
    http://www.komonews.com/live

    Please share and get the word out.

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  30. Dennie says:

    "On the periphery there were dogs in crates, some stacked two high. Some of these areas were unlit, squalid, and through my human eyes disturbing."

    Ok you lost me here. Hello….did you not read what you wrote? THAT is abuse and inhumane. Put any living thing in a crate forever Julie and see how friendly they are. That is TORTURE my dear. He can put the UNLOCKED crate in a large cage…at least they would have some room to walk around. This place is disgusting.

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  31. Suzy Pearson says:

    sorry lady, I do not believe a word on this horrible man, he always needs help, money & never lets anyone inside, WHY??? thought this was a shelter, so does HR NOT want these animals adopted, fostered??, if NOT why does he want them???? OH yeah, to take care of them so they will not be euthanized, right, so HE just slow KILLS them…..I do not understand WHY the Gov. Islee, the wussie mayor, the so called atty, Fleck & all the others are being held by this insane Steve Markwell….eventally they don't care what the US & the world think of how this one man is ruling their town/state. Also guess the people there don't care either, WHAT about all the feces, urine that runs off this place into streams, where fish, animals drink from, WHAT about where kids play in this water, WHAT do they think about sanitary conditions for the public…..NOT much it seems….WHAT ABOUT DHEC???? Seems to be unfit conditions at the place for the animals, as well as humans, DOES anyone care????? Sorry ass STATE in my book, at least the elected officials & all the morans who worship this inhumane, nasty human animal.

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  32. Ness says:

    Police report took two days to find the injustices and abusive conditions,that's why he said it wasn't a two week investigation,they only needed two days! Wake up and smell the dog mess,if he cared that much he would have handed many of the dogs over to the other places offering help and love for these red One beauties! http://www.olympicanimalsanctuary.info/police-rep

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    • Mary Dunn says:

      This clearly was not an ideal situation, but instead of anybody offering to help – you know, shovel sh*t and wash bowls, all you critics did was attack. I read every word on those report pages, that website, the emails too. You don't have to be a detective to see that someone had it in for him. Officer Julie Fife was so happy with herself she put smileys on her emails in anticipation of bustin' his door down with her warrant. I hope she isn't still working in Mayberry.

      That website so thoughtfully redacted the name of someone – why? The police records-keeper didn't. Frankly, I think a sanctuary for aggressive humans is a grand idea.

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  33. Barbara says:

    Have you seen how bad these kennels and animals are now? They are in horrible conditions please go back and check it out the dogs need help or they are going to die

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    • Julie Hall says:

      Hi Barbara: I am working on arrangements to go back to OAS.

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  34. Tammy says:

    I just want to ask you… Would you send your personal dog that you love to this place? I have stated this many times, I believe Mark started out with the right intentions but got in way over his head. The dogs have suffered long enough. It is about QUALITY not QUANTITY… Even if these dogs had to live in these conditions for a week is unacceptable. As hard as this is to say these dogs would have been better off sent over the rainbow bride. A life locked in a crate is CRUEL.
    Mark I am begging you to please let these rescues in to take their own dogs back. I don’t understand your reasoning on why you wont let them help you.
    The shelter I volunteered at for 5 years sent you 5 dogs and I voted on 3 of them to be sent to you. It sickens me to know the life I have helped them to endure.
    IF YOU REALLY LOVE THESE DOGS GIVE THE PEOPLE THAT CAN AND WANT THEIR DOGS BACK…. BACK!

    BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD…

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    • Julie Hall says:

      Hi Tammy. This article is out of date and the second of a three-part series. I am working on a current piece.

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  35. The Cat says:

    Julie, I really do hope that you investigate OAS further.

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  36. Concerned Citizen says:

    In light of Matthew Randazzo being named as a “co-conspirator” in a lawsuit alleging that he and Steve Markwell fraudulently represented their intentions in a successful effort to extract a $50,000 donation to a controversial animal shelter in Forks, WA, you might be interested in Matthew Randazzo’s recent history – especially given his current high level job working as a “Senior Advisor” to Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. Not a bad landing for someone who hasn’t been to college and has no relevant work experience – but does have a remarkably questionable history, as outlined below.

    After trying unsuccessfully to insinuate himself with various animal welfare organizations on the Olympic Peninsula, Matthew and Melissa Randazzo (his wife) got involved with the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center in Sequim. With Melissa taking charge of the Center’s website, this involvement mainly took the form of changing the mailing address for donations to the Center from the Center’s PO Box to their home – without the knowledge of the Center’s director, Jaye Moore. Moore estimates that a great deal of money sent to the Center found its way into the Randazzo’s pockets before she gave them the boot. Jaye Moore would be glad to verify this – and much more concerning the Randazzos – and she can be reached at 360-681-2283.

    You might also inquire into the deep dissatisfaction with Matthew Randazzo during his tenure as the head of the Clallam County Democratic Party. He caused many long-standing Democratic volunteers to leave the organization, and was accused of sabotaging campaigns of local Democratic candidates who didn’t hire him to manage their campaigns. (Candidates were also pressured to hire Melissa Randazzo to do their campaign websites, logos, etc.) There were also accusations of fairly significant amounts of petty cash being used as personal spending money by both Randazzos.

    As an addendum to the above…Randazzo owes his political “placement” to his mentors: State Rep. Steve Tharinger (D), State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D), and State Senator Jim Hargrove (D). These are the three men who installed Randazzo as head of the Clallam County Democratic Party, and these are the three men who installed him in Peter Goldmark’s office when he got squeezed out of the CCDP due to all of his problems and – to say the least – questionable behavior. Contact information for Randazzo’s enablers follows:
    Steve Tharinger/360-786-7904/steve.tharinger@leg.wa.gov
    Kevin Van De Wege/360-786-7916/kevin.vandewege@leg.wa.gov
    Jim Hargrove/360-786-7646/jim.hargrove@leg.wa.gov
    Peter Goldmark/360-902-1004/cpl@dnr.wa.gov

    You could also inquire into Matthew Randazzo’s being fired from the North Olympic Land Trust (located in Port Angeles) for failing to perform his job duties, as well as making the female employees there uncomfortable with his sexist language. His response was to have his mother, who is an attorney in Louisiana, threaten to sue them. Needless to say, the threat was baseless, and no legal action resulted.

    You could even check into Matthew Randazzo’s extravagant claims of being “partners” with a Hollywood producer (Dale Alexander Carnegie) to bring a book that Randazzo (supposedly) wrote to the screen. In articles in the Peninsula Daily News, Randazzo claimed his Hollywood “partner” had been a producer on the recent hit remake, Clash of the Titans (2010). A simple check of the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) will show that the producer in question did not, in fact, have anything to do with that film, and has only one (extremely minor) credit to his name.

    In other words, you could check into how a trail of controversy and allegations of lying and unethical
    (if not criminal) behavior follows Matthew Randazzo wherever he goes. This being the case, one might well ask why he has been given the cushy job he holds with Washington State – especially given, as mentioned above, the fact that he has no higher education or relevant work experience. . Doing a Google search for Randazzo in the Peninsula Daily News is a good place to start. This guy is a con man, and a sociopath, and I speak from personal experience. Much of the money from the $50,000 donation was literally gobbled up by the Randazzos – they, and Markwell, loved to eat out every night, but Melissa Randazzo was the only one of the three with a real, paying job. So that $50,000 really helped them a lot, but didn’t do a damn thing for those poor dogs in Forks.

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    • Mary Dunn says:

      Well, I'd say you just gave him plenty of grounds to sue you. LOL j/k. ROFLMAO
      First of all, you have such a vendetta that you couldn't wait for the right venue to spew your hate. This isn't about Randazzo, but like most self-serving avengers, you couldn't resist.

      What is your deal? Are you jealous, Concerned Citizen? Sounds like too much whine with your cheese – oh wait, that's Wisconsin. Well that's probably Randazzo's fault too, huh? And just how do you know all this – 'They literally gobbled up $50,000'? Well, I'd say they don't know how to handle their money. I could have eaten on that for years. hahaha

      You know what just caught my eye? Your last line – "those poor dogs in Forks." poor dogs in forks. That's it – they could have been eating the dogs and saved the money for a house. You are a genius CC, just a little too late. Now see if you can get a job at the Mayberry police department.

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      • Mary Dunn says:

        How'd you get all that in one post? I had to cut mine in half.

        You're not nearly as smart as you think you are. Are you a doctor? able to diagnose from the DSM? Or is that just the way it is out there? Are you a good example of a concerned citizen? I am glad I don't live there. Back-stabbing is so passive-aggressive. And cowardly. Diagnose that. Personally, if I'm gonna get stabbed, I'd at least like to see it coming. I hope they all sue you – every person you named (and numbered.) You won't use your own name but you out everybody else. D0\o you have some inferiority issues? or maybe a little narcissistic tendency.

        You say Randazzo is a sociopath – from experience. Birds of a feather? You are a sad excuse for an adult. If I was posting stuff like that i wouldn't use my real name either. Just a suggestion ~ examine your motives.

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  37. wow!

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