By SARA KENNEDY
MANATEE -- Spurred by complaints from residents, Manatee County commissioners Tuesday acknowledged changes may be necessary to the embattled Animal Services Division.
After speakers from rescue groups complained about findings included in a recent report showing the Animal Services staff had known for many years about substandard conditions at a private shelter in East Manatee, commissioners acknowledged that changes may be needed.
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"You can rest assured we're going to act upon it," Commissioner Vanessa Baugh told the audience.
Commissioner Michael Gallen said he also is concerned about accountability of the Animal Services staff, adding, "We're in the process of addressing it."
Speaker Debbie Woosley told the board she had reviewed the sheriff's office report, and found it disturbing.
"It is very clear there is a long history of gross mismanagement and an abysmal lack of leadership at Animal Services," she said.
"Frankly, the leadership that is there is unhealthy and encourages a climate of retaliation," she said.
In its report, the sheriff's office said there was not probable cause to charge Animal Services officials with criminal wrongdoing in how they dealt with complaints about Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary.
The shelter's owners and another man have been charged with animal cruelty and other crimes.
County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said last week that the sheriff's findings would not preclude him from taking administrative action against employees.
A consulting firm this week was scheduled to start a separate review of operations in the Animal Services Division.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.