Manatee County administrator takes calm, collected approach to Animal Services dilemma

May 24, 2014 

Workers from Honor Animal Rescue talk about a dog and her puppies at the Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary as over 300 dogs are processed after a raid on the rescue organization. Tips led the Manatee County Sheriff's Office along with several other local and state agencies to execute a search warrant on the property in East Manatee on S.R. 64 Wednesday morning. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has a history of seeking all the facts before coming to a conclusion about changes in public policy. He avoids knee-jerk reactions that hold the potential to backfire.

So it comes as no surprise that he intends to hire an independent outside firm to evaluate Manatee County Animal Services.

This sounds like a top-to-bottom review -- "to evaluate all policies, procedures, protocols, practices, staffing plan, facilities ..."

The agency's actions in dealings with Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary have sparked questions about proper procedures. Owners Alan and Sheree Napier face 29 counts of animal cruelty in the wake of a February raid on their East Manatee operation.

Last week, the Animal Services Advisory Board sent county commissioners a letter chastising the agency for misleading the panel.

Animal Services certainly has much to answer for, but Hunzeker's approach is the right one.

"We have in this country a presumption of innocence," he told commissioners at Tuesday's regular meeting. "We will deal with it once we have facts."

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