Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Nevada dogs shipped out of state for what was supposed to be a better life. Instead, their situation goes from bad to worse.
Their tri-state journey took them through the Sanctuary of Sorrow, and has finally come full circle. Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears found the dogs back in the Silver State, and better than ever.
"It's okay Herb. Settle down," Kris Brown said as she tossed dog treats into an outdoor kennel.
Herbie, Tippy and Itsy are playing, eating and running free. Simple things dogs should do. But these three haven't had even those basic creature comforts for almost six years.
"I mean it's just heartbreaking to think," said Kris.
Contact 13 met the dogs at Safe Haven Rescue Kennel in Yerington, Nevada, located 350 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They were recently reunited with Kris, who's rescuing these same dogs for the second time, "They're doing better. I mean, when we first got them a lot of it was just physical."
It was back in January 2008 when Kris first met Herbie, Yippy, Itsy and two other dogs, Able and Dixie. She was helping to rescue them and more than 100 other dogs from a remote ranch near Gabbs, Nevada, about 150 miles southeast of Reno.
Aggressive dogs gobbled most of the food, and the dogs were overcrowded in their pens.
Some dogs were injured but there was no medical attention. There was no protection from the freezing cold or scorching sun. Kris helped place the "Gabbs Dogs" with rescue groups around the country.
"By the time they got down to that final core of the last 57 dogs, those were the feral dogs, and those were the ones that had the behavior issues," she explained.
Tippy, Itsy, Herbie, Able and Dixie were in that group. They ended up in the hands of Steve Markwell, who took them on an 800 mile trek to his Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, Washington. He promised a new lease on life for dogs deemed too dangerous to adopt.
"When you think of putting a dog into a rescue, you think you've done a good thing," said Kris.
But it turns out, the Olympic Animal Sanctuary was far from a good thing. As Contact 13 reported last month, Markwell kept more than 100 dogs in a dilapidated warehouse for years. We now know the Gabbs Dogs were among them.
Police photos and reports document many were kept in plastic travel crates, with only sporadic food and water, little or no exercise and an overpowering stench. Markwell spoke to our Seattle sister station in the fall.
"Is that really what you had in mind when you started?" asked Investigative Reporter Jeff Burnside with KOMO TV.
"It's a starting point," said Markwell.
"It's a starting point?" asked Burnside.
"Yea. Anyway, I really don't want to do an interview," said Markwell.
Despite the deplorable conditions, Forks authorities said Markwell broke no laws. But after protests and media coverage, word got out in the rescue community.
"Oh my god," said Kris. "We know there's five Gabbs Dogs there, and then Itsy was actually posted on the page in her crate.”
Kris reached out to Markwell, offering to bring the Gabbs Dogs back to Nevada. But she received an email from him on Oct. 31, 2013 that said in part, "Thank you for your offer, but they will be staying with me. Consider this a cease and desist notice. I will consider any further emails to be harassment."
Then in December, Markwell packed 124 O.A.S. dogs into crates and made a middle-of-the-night getaway. 1,300 miles later, he agreed to relinquish them to Guardians of Rescue at the RUFFF House Sanctuary in Golden Valley, Arizona. Kris soon got a call.
"We've got Itsy."
Tippy and Herbie were also in Arizona. Able and Dixie are still missing. After six years at O.A.S., the dogs were in bad shape. Herbie looked the worst.
"His leg, the front left leg that he's favoring now, was all lacerated, and he could barely put any weight on it," explained Kris.
And Tippy? "She had some kind of infection under her eye so it was all white and crusty."
But they've finally found a safe haven in the middle of Nevada, not far from where their journey started six years ago.
Itsy will be adoptable soon. Herbie and Tippy will most likely live out their lives at Safe Haven in Yerington. There are still about 45 other OAS dogs who need adoption or fostering.