Trial date set in case against veterinarian for Napier animal rescue

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 5, 2014 

MANATEE -- The trial of the veterinarian for the East Manatee animal rescue, under investigation for animal cruelty and fraud, has been set for October.

Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary, 20010 State Road 64 E., was raided Feb. 5 by a multi-agency law enforcement effort led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. As a result, more than 300 animals were seized from what investigators called "deplorable" conditions, and the remains of 20 more were uncovered.

Edward Dunham, a licensed veterinarian listed as the director of veterinary medicine at Napier's, was arrested April 19 and charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty.

Investigators say Dunham performed a spay and hernia repair surgery on a dog from the Napier shelter using an anesthetic only acceptable for cats during minor, brief surgical procedures or diagnostics.

Sheree Napier, 45, is facing one count of scheme to defraud, one count of unlawful solicitation of funds and 14 counts of animal cruelty. Alan Napier, 51, is facing one count of scheme to defraud, three counts of unlawful solicitation of funds and 15 counts of animal cruelty.

All three appeared in court Wednesday but did not speak.

Dunham is set to stand trial Oct. 20. No date was set for the Napiers, although the three are expected to be tried together.

"Because of the new charges, it probably would be appropriate to set a trial date at the next case management," Judge Charles Roberts said Wednesday.

Roberts did waive arraignment for Alan and Sheree Napier's new charges and accepted a not-guilty plea for those charges as well.

The next scheduled case management hearing is set for 10 a.m. July 9.

Dunham's right to appear was waived for that hearing since his case has already been set for trial.

On Monday afternoon, Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro filed the additional charges, and the couple was contacted. Alan and Sheree Napier turned themselves in Monday night at the Manatee County jail.

The couple bonded out Tuesday: Sheree Napier on bonds totaling $21,500 and Alan Napier on bonds totaling $23,000. The sheriff's office investigation is still ongoing, and additional charges are possible. The couple was first arrested April 17.

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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