Manatee deputies seize 8 more horses in Napier case

srocco@bradenton.comFebruary 11, 2014 

EAST MANATEE -- Less than a week after the Manatee County Sheriff's Office seized almost 300 animals from Napier Family Farm and Animal Rescue, deputies confiscated eight more horses Monday on another Napier-owned property in Myakka City.

The horses were removed from properties on Ballard Road and on Wingate Road and taken to Whispering Ranches Feed.

"All of them showed signs of distress and neglect of varying degrees," said Dave Bristow, sheriff's spokesman. "There wasn't any hay we could find. ... It had been grazed on quite a bit. We're thinking that hopefully they're going to be OK."

Bristow said the sheriff's office is getting calls from the public on the Napiers' other properties and continues to investigate.

"We wanted to wrap everything up on one property, which we did, and today we took a look at another prop

erty," Bristow said.

No arrests have been made, but owners Alan and Sheree Napier could face multiple animal cruelty and fraud charges.

Barbara Grimes, who lives off County Road 675 in Bradenton, said she travels past one of the properties twice each day and the horses look dangerously thin.

"There's trash everywhere," she said. "Code enforcement itself should have been alerted about the trash outside."

A multi-agency law enforcement effort led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office with assistance from Manatee County Animal Services executed a search warrant Wednesday at Napier Family Farm and Animal Rescue, 20010 State Road 64 E., and seized about 300 animals.

Deputies returned Thursday to finish looking for evidence and uncovered a shallow grave at the property with the remains of 20 dead dogs and cats.

Manatee County officials said Friday animal services officers had found "minor violations" on prior visits to the Napier shelter, but never found "any evidence of animal abuse or neglect."

County records show between Jan. 1, 2007, and Feb. 7, the county transferred 135 cats and 151 dogs to the Napier shelter -- the sixth-highest total among shelters the county uses.

Mary Lupi, president of Safe Haven Animal Rescue of Florida, said her organization took in eight dogs after the raid last week. She is fostering a 2-year-old chocolate Lab she named Penny who was close to death.

"It had thousands of fleas, no fur on its tail, sores all over its body. It was laying in one of the back pens with its head in its paws," she said.

Lupi rushed her to Braden River Animal Hospital for treatment.

"I told her, 'This is your birthday. This is your new start at life. You're going to have a wonderful life after this.'"

Efforts to care for other seized animals continue.

The Beach Market at Coquina Beach each Sunday is collecting towels, blankets, food and other items, as well as cash donations. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays at 2650 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach, or call Nancy Ambrose at 941-518-4431 for pickup.

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