Ferguson sues man who founded dog rescue organization for not registering, providing records of spending

By Bryan Cohen | Jul 30, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a Forks resident who allegedly raised $300,000 for a non-profit dog rescue organization without registering with the Secretary of State's office.

Stephen Markwell, the founder of Olympic Animal Sanctuary, also allegedly failed to produce required records of how the donations were spent. Ferguson alleged Markwell unlawfully solicited and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations while not being registered as a charity, in violation of the state's Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act.

"Olympic Animal Sanctuary failed to account for how charitable money was spent," Ferguson said. "When organizations don't comply with the law, we step in to protect both the public and the vast majority of our state's charities that do comply with the law."

After registering Olympic Animal Sanctuary as a federal, tax-exempt non-profit organization in 2007, Markwell failed to register his operation in Washington until April 2013. During that time, Markwell allegedly raised more than $300,000 in revenue from public donations. As of December, Markwell stepped down from his position with Olympic Animal Sanctuary and surrendered the dogs to a shelter in Arizona.

Ferguson's lawsuit did not address allegations of animal abuse or neglect as the issues do not fall within the Charitable Solicitation Act or the Consumer Protection Act.

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