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Locals, sanctuaries reaching out to help with rescued animals

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Locals, sanctuaries reaching out to help with rescued animals

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Jan 31, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Dogs nearly starved to death at a place dubbed the Sanctuary of Sorrow.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has their journey that spans three states, ending near Las Vegas.

Now, you can help give them a new lease on life.

PHOTOS: Rescued animals in need of homes

Dogs emaciated. Suffering chronic seizures due to malnutrition. Coats so matted they have to be sedated and shaved down.

"I've seen some neglect cases, but they were never this bad," said Dr. Randy Winn of VCA Black Mountain Animal Hospital in Henderson.

Dr. Winn is treating Miss Molly, Rosie, Maddy and Buddy.

The dogs that have been brought to Black Mountain Animal Hospital have been in really bad shape. They probably hadn't been fed in weeks. 

Buddy, a pit bull, is covered in sores and couldn't even walk when he was first brought in. 

The doctor didn't think he was going to make it.

Pressure sores on dogs, just like bed sores on humans, come from being unable to move, either from weakness or not enough space.

Dr. Winn said it would take months of neglect for a dog's condition to deteriorate like Buddy's.

The place they came from has been described as a "torture chamber" and a "prison."

It's the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, Washington, about 140 miles northwest of Seattle.

Former Las Vegan Pati Winn volunteered there, "It's just amazing to see them out here knowing what they have lived in for so long. And what they've lived without. And they've endured and survived."

The Olympic Animal Sanctuary was a dilapidated warehouse where about 160 dogs, supposedly too dangerous to adopt, were kept for several years.

Police photos and reports document what volunteers saw day after day.

Dogs living in darkness, kept in tiny enclosures with little to no exercise, an overpowering stench, and only sporadic access to food and water.

The facility was run by Steve Markwell, who spoke briefly with our Seattle sister station last September.

Jeff Burnside with KOMO 4 News asked, "Let me ask you, when you look at that place, Is that really what you had in mind when you started?"

"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.

Markwell didn't return our multiple calls and emails.

He was never charged with abuse or neglect, and though police investigated, they said they didn't have enough probable cause to serve a search warrant.

Under mounting pressure from the media and community, Markwell fled Washington in late December with 124 dogs crammed into crates in the back of a semi truck.

"When he disappeared with these dogs, everyone was very scared for their well-being," said Pati Winn.

"I think he felt defeated," said Robert Misseri with Guardians of Rescue. He convinced Markwell to bring the dogs to the RUFFF House sanctuary near Kingman, Arizona.

"How could I say no? Because there was nowhere for them to go," said Hillarie Allison, who owns RUFFF House. "And the fear was that he would take off into the mountains or the desert and just disappear, and then the probability that all these animals would have perished is so real."

Buddy was hours away from death when Allison rushed him to Dr. Winn.

"At first you'd look in his eyes and there was nobody there," Winn recalls.

As for the rest of the dogs, Allison said they've got a lot of muscle atrophy from not getting exercise.  And some were pretty emaciated.

Dr. Winn said those he saw hadn't had anything to eat in at least five to six weeks, eight weeks.

They're all slowly being nursed back to health and a crew is working to fill their needs.

Allison said they, "Need rehab, they need TLC, they need rescues to come and get them that are able to handle dogs with issues."

After being rehabilitated, many of the dogs will be adoptable and their caretakers hope they can find homes in Southern Nevada.

"So just a short drive from Las Vegas are a lot of lives waiting for love?" asked Darcy Spears.

"Absolutely," said Allison.

Guardians of Rescue has spent close to $60,000 caring for the dogs so far.

If you'd like to donate money or you're interested in adopting an O.A.S. dog, call Guardians of Rescue at 1-888-287-3864 or visit their website by clicking here.

As of Friday morning, there were 52 O.A.S. dogs left. Most of them need to go to experienced rescues.

But some of the other 150 dogs and cats at RUFFF House are ready to go home with families.  To inquire about them, call 928-565-BARK, or email or click here.

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.