BRADENTON -- Manatee County is planning to reopen a downtown Bradenton adoption center for cats only, officials said.
The center was noisy Wednesday with the whine of power tools as county employees and volunteers prepared for its reopening at 10 a.m. Saturday, said Samantha Wolfe, volunteer coordinator for the county Animal Services Division.
"It's getting volunteers in for our big first meeting, and we'll have adoptions, too," said Wolfe, the sole county employee supervising the center with help from volunteers. "We are looking for volunteers to help sit with the cats and final
The satellite center, 1002 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, previously housed dogs and cats, but closed last summer.
Pet residents were moved to the county animal shelter in Palmetto and up to 20 cats will be transferred back, said Wolfe.
There will be a "kitty saloon" and a kitten nursery at the center nicknamed "Downtown MeowTown."
Some lucky denizens will have verandas upon which to perch, courtesy of carpenters from the Manatee County Property Management Department.
Some animal rights activists have said in social media posts they plan to protest in front of the adoption center Saturday about the county's handling of a shelter dog with a bullet wound in its leg.
Animal Services Director Bill Hutchison emailed commissioners Monday and he is investigating.
A formal grand opening of the downtown center is slated for 10 a.m. Jan. 10, said Wolfe.
"We've been pushing for this for months," said Debara Mathews, 61, a retired nurse from Bradenton who volunteers with Animal Network Inc. and was at the center Wednesday. "We'll open Saturday, and will be ready to roll with cats here."
The animal services division is attempting to right itself after nearly a year of controversy.
A private consulting firm just completed auditing its operations, recommending improvements county commissioners are expected to take up in 2015.
The audit was commissioned after authorities filed multiple charges against owners of a private East Manatee animal sanctuary in connection with an animal cruelty case. The case against the owners of the private sanctuary, Napiers Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary, is slated for trial in 2015.
For years, the county sent animals to the private sanctuary despite clear warnings of poor sanitation and lack of food and water for animals, sheriff's office investigators concluded.
However, they found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against county employees.
Those wishing to volunteer at the adoption center can call Mathews at 941-962-8044.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.