Owners of East Manatee animal shelter arrested on cruelty, fraud charges

jdeleon@bradenton.comApril 17, 2014 

MANATEE -- The married owners of an East Manatee animal sanctuary were arrested Thursday afternoon on 29 counts of animal cruelty, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, with other charges pending.

Alan Napier was charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty and one count of fraud. Sheree Napier was charged with 14 counts of animal cruelty.

"The animal cruelty charges involved nine dogs, five horses and one cat," the sheriff's office said in a news release.

The couple was arrested at their home, according to the report.

Bonds was set at $21,000 for Sheree Napier and $24,000 for Alan Napier. They are in the Manatee County jail.

Authorities from several agencies Feb. 5 raided Napi

er's Log Cabin Horse Animal Sanctuary, 20010 State Road 64 E. More than 300 animals were seized. The remains of 20 others were found.

The sanctuary had been under investigation by the sheriff's office since Dec. 9 when investigators received an anonymous tip.

On Thursday evening after the arrest, the sanctuary looked desolate except for a few vehicles parked out front. As strong winds shook the trees beyond the closed iron gate, an entrance sign still beckoned people to visit the sanctuary website for animal adoptions. An orange "danger" sign placed after the raid by the Manatee County Building Department was gone.

A large dog of undetermined breed later emerged, sitting alertly by the front of the sanctuary.

"We still have some more investigating to do," Manatee County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Rob Hendrickson said. "There are still more charges pending."

Manatee County Animal Services has also been scrutinized since the raid for allowing animals to be transferred to the Napers for years despite rumors and complaints about mistreatment.

County government officials reserved comment on the Napier arrests since the investigation is active, according to county spokesman Nick Azzara.

"I'm glad that finally the legal process is going into action," Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitemore said.

One week after the raid, eight horses were also removed from properties owned by the couple at 4957 Wingate Road and 39760 Ballard Road, respectively, in Myakka City.

The sheriff's office petitioned the court Feb. 14 for custody of all animals seized during the raid.

Four days later, Sheree Napier filed for bankruptcy just in time to halt the Feb. 18 foreclosure sale of the property at 20010 State Road 64 E.

In February, the property was deemed a sanitary nuisance by the Manatee County Health Department. The couple were given 30 days to correct the conditions.

Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. "Chips" Shore began a review of the Manatee County Animal Services dealings with the animal sanctuary in February. That probe has not been completed.

On March 6, a Manatee County judge signed over the animals seized during the raid with the exception of two horses given to the care of Alan and Sheree Napier's daughter.

The animals seized from Napiers were taken by various local animal rescue organizations as well as Animal Services. Many animals are still not available for adoption because they need medical clearance.

-- Amaris Castillo contributed to this report.

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

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