Manatee deputies find animal remains during probe into Napier shelter

jdeleon@bradenton.comFebruary 6, 2014 

MANATEE -- Investigators found the remains of 20 dogs and cats Thursday as the investigation into animal cruelty at Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary continued into a second day, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office reported.

More than 300 animals were confiscated Wednesday, including dogs, cats, horses, geese, hogs and goats, during the initial raid by the sheriff's office and other agencies. About 12 rescued animals had to be euthanized, the sheriff's office said in a news release.

When investigators returned to the nonprofit at 20010 State Road 64 E. they discovered animal remains buried in a shallow mass grave at the back of the property.

"There was a couple areas of disturbed soil so we figured we would start there," Sgt. Rob Hendrickson of the sheriff's office said.

The remains appeared to have been buried at different times, he said.

Investigators also searched the home again.

"We are trying to make sure we didn't miss anything," Hendrickson said. "(Wednesday's) concern was mostly about the animals, (Thursday) we are looking at details."

No arrests have been made. Owners

Allan and Sheree Napier could face charges of animal cruelty and fraud once the investigation is complete, according to investigators.

The Napiers also have properties at 4957 Wingate Road and 39760 Ballard Road in Myakka City, according to the Manatee Property Appraiser's website. Investigators visited the Wingate Road site Thursday to determine if there was any animal abuse there. An investigator spoke with family members living on the property, looked at the animals and took pictures.

Four horses kept in a separate pasture next to the home were so thin their rib cages were visible. They only had a scattered pile of dirty hay contaminated with feces to eat.

The last live animal was removed just before 7 p.m. Wednesday. Patrol deputies stayed at the property all night to secure the crime scene, according to Hendrickson.

Of the animals seized, 63 dogs and 13 cats were taken to Nate's Honor Animal Rescue where officials said they were doing well.

"Last night all animals were seen," board member Cam McCarthy said Thursday. "They were vaccinated, groomed and bathed, if necessary, and they were all examined by a veterinarian."

Five animals required medical attention and were separated from the others, she said. "Of course, all of them had fleas and ticks. Then we tucked them into kennels making sure they have plenty food and water. We now have our volunteers sitting with them and socializing with them."

Nate's Honor exceeded capacity with the large number of rescued animals but they are managing, she said.

"Their care is not being sacrificed," McCarthy said. "We have asked all our volunteers to come in and help."

The animal rescue needs monetary donations, she said.

A new Animal Coalition Abuse Team was partly responsible for the bust Wednesday, County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said Thursday.

The task force, formed about 18 months ago, includes a variety of agencies to generate collective clout. Member agencies include the Manatee County Sheriff's Office; municipalities such as Bradenton, Palmetto and Holmes Beach; animal rescue groups; and the State Attorney's Office, she said.

The task force meets every three months, she said.

"Everybody went in as a team" once a citizen complained about the animal abuse that led to Wednesday's bust, said Whitmore.

"Manatee County is not going to tolerate a human being or an animal abused," said Whitmore. "We'll put you in jail."

Rescued animals cannot be adopted yet, but officials say they hope the public will adopt others to help with the overflow.

On its Facebook page, the Humane Society of Manatee County said seized animals will not be available for adoption for at least two weeks. The Humane Society said it welcomes calls about the animals "but calls about the seized animals who are not available can take valuable staff time."

Call Manatee County Animal Services at 941-742-5933 with questions about adopting other animals to ease the overflow.

Animal Services facilities and local rescue groups have been overwhelmed by the large number of rescued animals. To donate food or supplies for the animals, or supply information about the case, call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011, ext. 1151.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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