MANATEE -- Manatee County officials have received two proposals for a comprehensive evaluation of its Animal Services Division by an outside group.
A selection committee of county officials met Friday to review the two proposals: one from the Humane Network, a non-profit organization based in Reno, Nev., and the other from Matrix Consulting Group, a for-profit consulting firm based in Mountain View, Calif.
The county's Animal Services operation has been under scrutiny since Feb. 5 when Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary, 20010 State Road 64, was raided by a multi-law enforcement effort led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Roughly 300 animals were rescued from what investigators termed "deplorable" conditions.
Owners Alan and Sheree Napier have been arrested in connection with the animal cruelty case; both have pleaded not guilty.
Officials want to take a comprehensive look at the entire Animal Services operation in Manatee County, including its enforcement function and its sheltering duties, which deal with adoption and foster care, said Ron Koper, county public safety director and a member of the committee.
"What is our operation like, and what does it cost?" were the main question outlined in the audit's scope for the committee, which met at the Manatee County Administration Building.
"I would think it was a good idea, depending on what they'll be looking at, or looking for," said Jean Peelen, a member of the Manatee County Animal Services Advisory Board, a volunteer body that oversees the Animal Services Division.
Peelen, who also serves as a Holmes Beach commissioner, said she wasn't sure about the scope of the audit because she did not see the request for proposals.
"It wasn't shared," she said. "I don't know what they're asking them to do. Since it was triggered by Napiers, I don't see a review of policies and procedures would have been of any help because there were policies and procedures in place at that time."
Caryn Hodge, a volunteer for several local animal rescues, hopes that an independent audit might shed light on the agency.
"As long as the company they use is completely objective, and has no ties or previous experience with anyone here through Manatee County..., those kinds of companies should be looked at," Hodge said.
Such a company should have done shelter reviews before, should harbor no preconceptions and not concern itself with making friends, said Hodge, who is also founder of "Picture Them Adopted," advertising for animals that need a home.
"Complete, unbiased platform -- it's a good thing to do," she added.
The proposal from the Humane Network calls for completion of a final report in six weeks, while the Matrix group envisions completion within 12 weeks, according to Dennis Wallace, procurement contracts and buyer manager for the county's purchasing division.
Under the county's purchasing rules, he could not cite the estimated costs of proposals because contract negotiations are under way, Wallace said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.