Thoughts on a great honor, dog art, jail thefts

In honoring Carol Whitmore as Manatee County's first "Lightning Community Hero" this week, the Tampa Bay hockey club cited the county commissioner's lengthy service in support of children, AIDS patients, low-income families, addicts and the homeless.

Describing Whitmore as someone who "always tries to give a voice to those in the community who are voiceless," the National Hockey League team elaborated: "One of her greatest attributes is her kind heart and willingness to assist people who are disadvantaged."

Those well-chosen words are a terrific tribute for a Manatee High School graduate and Holmes Beach resident whose dedication to the community is evident on a daily basis.

One of her latest and greatest accomplishments is as the commission's driving force behind the county's no-kill policy for dogs and cats, adopted last October in a unanimous vote. Manatee became the first Florida county committed to becoming a no-kill community -- and an inspiration to others.

Manatee's no-kill resolution and action plan call for the county's Animal Services department to gradually increase its live release rate to more than 90 percent by the end of this year, a vast improvement from the 61 percent before the new policy.

This is a community-wide effort, requiring commitments from the county's private animal welfare organizations in order to spare a large number of cats and dogs from euthanasia. The save rate reached 82 percent in March, a tremendous achievement in a short time span that demonstrates the broad support for the no-kill policy.

In earning the Lightning honor, the club awarded Whitmore $50,000 for her favorite charities. Her commitment to the no-kill cause is reflected by her designation of $40,000 to the Animal Network, which raises money and sponsors projects to improve the lives of pets.

Whitmore also assigned $10,000 to the Bill Galvano One-Stop Center, which serves the homeless. She has an intimate knowledge of the issue, having experienced homelessness as a teenager.

The Lightning selected a well deserving member of the Manatee community for this honor. Congratulations, Commissioner Whitmore.

Dog art museum viability

A grand plan to locate a museum housing paintings of dogs whose images were captured right before euthanasia sounds unnerving at first blush. But the co-founders of a nonprofit organization are pitching the idea to Bradenton officials because, they say, the area has become the "epicenter of the no-kill movement."

That's certainly true in Florida. Even across the nation, there are few no-kill communities -- though the movement is growing. This week, Broward County became the second in the Sunshine State to adopt such an animal-control policy -- and, like Manatee, in a unanimous vote.

The co-founders of An Act of Dog, Mark Barone and Marina Dervan, hope to raise awareness about the treatment of shelter animals -- and the fate of many. That's an admirable goal.

Before Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority invests tax money in a canine art museum, we expect conversations revolving around these questions: Will enough people pay to view paintings of dogs? Can organizers raise enough money to fund a museum? And will such a museum attract tourists and new businesses, spurring economic development as suggested?

We fully support the expansion of the no-kill movement. Should a thorough study prove the viability of a Bradenton museum, we'll give our full endorsement.

Quote of the week

"Is this pretty bad? Well, heck yeah." -- Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, commenting Thursday after releasing results of an investigation that revealed two high-ranking jail officers used horse feed, hay, farm supplies, and a bulldozer for their personal use.