BRADENTON -- A handful of picketers Monday rallied on behalf of a dog they claim suffered for days with an untreated bullet wound at the Manatee County Animal Services Division shelter, an assertion a county official said he is still investigating.
The group, representing volunteers from several animal rescue organizations, lined up with protest signs on behalf of Amari, a dog of an unknown breed.
The signs said, "Justice for Amari," and "MCAS (Manatee County Animal Services) needs to be held accountable."
"I'm here for Amari and all the other animals that have been mistreated," said Tara Tresca, 33, of Bradenton, a
rescue group volunteer and the organizer of the rally in front of the historic Manatee County Courthouse, 1115 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. "If we did it, we would be in jail for animal cruelty."
Tresca said the group plans similar rallies Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bill Hutchison, interim director of the Animal Services Division, said he is investigating the incident over the Christmas holidays.
"But I respect their opinion and their right to do what they're doing, and when we have something to say, we will say it," Hutchison said, referring to rally participants.
Asked to confirm basic facts of the case, he said Amari was a stray admitted to the county Palmetto animal shelter last month, lame and obviously in distress.
The dog was immediately taken to an offsite veterinarian, who confirmed a bullet wound in its front-left leg and a shattered femur, Hutchison said.
After one day, the dog was transferred back to the shelter.
"That's where my investigation starts, right there," said Hutchison. He said he was compiling documentation of the procedures done for the animal and the care it was given.
The dog is now in the custody of Forget-Me-Not Rescue, said Debbie Woosley, who oversees the Facebook page Support No Kill Manatee County. The Manatee County Commission specified the county would stop killing healthy animals in its care under a formal resolution and plan.
"We don't want this to continue," said Woosley. "This was a distressed dog that went without any real medical care for nine or 10 days."
Another vet the animal rescue organization consulted recommended against immediate surgery due to the dog's poor health, but he did provide antibiotics and other medical treatment, Woosley said, noting Amari is now medically stable.
Last month, an operational audit of the division recommended a new animal shelter and better staffing. The report suggested a new, longer-term animal shelter be constructed and a veterinarian added to the division's staff. It found "serious deficiencies" in the existing shelter, including inadequate space for animals received and layout issues affecting its ability to isolate sick and infectious animals.
The $53,000 report produced by the Matrix Consulting Group of Edwardsville, Ill., also recommended changes to the agreement with local rescue groups caring for shelter animals to ensure an appropriate standard of care.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.