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Archive for December 13th, 2009

Rehabilitating the baddest of the bad dogs

 

Humans, as Steve Markwell sees it, create bad dogs. So humans have the responsibility to rehabilitate them.

Markwell operates Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Washington state — subject of the Fox News report above, and a front page story in the Los Angeles Times Friday.

“When people create these monsters, I think it’s people’s responsibility to take care of them. Not to just kill everything because it’s inconvenient,” Markwell says in the Times article. “The fact that they have their quirks, the extra things you have to be cautious of, in some ways it’s almost endearing. It’s kind of like, the world hates you, but I don’t.”

The Olympic Animal Sanctuary, located in the Olympic Peninsula rain forest, caters to dogs who would be euthanized or turned away at other shelters.

Among the more than 50 dogs now there are guard dogs who once belonged to drug dealers, wolf hybrids with violent pasts, and Snaps, the pit bull mix who made headlines south of Seattle in June when he attacked two women on the command of his owner, a 15-year-old girl.

The girl and three other youths were arrested and sentenced, and Snaps was facing a probable death sentence until Markwell stepped in.

“This vicious monster of a dog, he’s the sweetest thing in the world,” he said. Snaps is now one of the few dogs allowed to roam uncaged inside the sanctuary’s main building.

Markwell said the secret of rehabilitating the dogs is giving them space, exuding quiet kindness and corralling like-minded dogs together, allowing for socialization and management of bad behavior rather than trying to immediately eliminate it.

He scoffs at “dog whisperers” and rejects potential volunteers who say they have a “spiritual kinship” with animals, the article says.

“I have absolutely no place for people like that because they’re dangerous,” he said. “What it takes is common sense and experience. That whole ‘animals like me’ — well, animals like me too. But I take a really bad bite about once a month. Let’s not rely on that as our safety mechanism.”