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Napier's Animal Sanctuary fallout: Animal services says "hands are tied" when inspecting rescue groups

12:22 AM, Feb 8, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Napier fallout: 'Hands are tied' when inspecting rescue groups

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 PDF Document: Follow up Public Statement

Manatee County, Florida -- Adoption agencies are still picking up animals at Manatee Animal Services rescued from Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary on Wednesday.

Deputies and volunteers removed more than 300 animals from Napier's this week, most of which were dogs. Investigators also found a shallow gravesite on the property with the remains of 20 dogs.

"They're pretty much a mess and in need of TLC," says Kristi Dorman, director of the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

The HSSC picked up 20 dogs and cats of Napier's animals being sheltered at Manatee Animal Services.

The raid on Napier's comes after a two-month investigation, but inspection reports obtained by 10 News show since 2009, animal services received a dozen complaints and did nearly 20 inspections without it finding any serious problems.

STORY: Manatee animal sanctuary investigation continues

"I do have questions. What was inspected? What required of the owners?" says Dorman.

"He was at the bottom of the stack, no doubt, but every time we inspected he was at a basic level -- not substandard level," says Chief Ron Koper, director of Public Safety for Manatee County.   

According to the reports, since 2009 officers found minor issues, roach infestations, cages in a flooded area, cages crowded with animals, property unkempt and overgrown.

Inspectors issued a notice for a proper shelter in 2011 and advised the Napiers on providing proper shelter again in July, plus maintaining sanitary conditions.

Manatee County's Public Safety Director Ron Koper says doing random inspections of Napier's gated property was often difficult.

"Nine out of 10 times he was not home or busy conducting business and asked us to come back the next day or a couple of days later. There was never a time we could make unannounced visits or an inspection," says Koper.

Koper acknowledges the Napiers would correct minor problems pointed out to them by inspectors.

On Wednesday, deputies found 50 dogs inside Sheree and Alan Napier's home. Koper says animal services said it never knew there were dogs inside the home.

"We were never allowed near the house and never assumed animals being kept in the house. We asked to see dog kennels and we were taken to the dog kennels."

He says they were always suspicious about what was inside the home, but without Napier's consent they could not go in.

Animal services officials say an inspection in July showed some minor problems, no sick or injured animals and conditions were seen as "average".

Koper says photos taken in July of the kennels showed a different picture from what they found during the raid on Wednesday.

"Deplorable," he says. "If we had seen any abuse or problems we would have taken action sooner."

Koper says, as with any adoption, when a rescue agency signs a "transfer agreement" for animals they assume responsibility. According to county records, Napier's received 286 dogs from animal services since 2010, 92 of those animals were provided to Napier last year.

"We don't have regulations to inspect a property. Can we place better policies and procedures so employees can take more action -- absolutely," says Koper.

The director of public safety says it's "unfair" to blame animal services for the conditions at Napier's.

Koper says animal services investigates when it receives a complaint, as it did with Napier's. 

"We investigated the smoke we couldn't find fire our hands are tied."

Officials with Manatee Animal Services say the Napier case will force them to re-evaluate and establish new policies and procedures on transferring animals, adoptions and doing inspections.

READ: Attorney statement on behalf of the Napiers

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