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No Kill Fury Barks, But Gets No Bite


BRADENTON -- A week has come and gone since Commissioner Robin DiSabatino requested that other commissioners take a break from their vacations and convene a "special meeting" to address what seemingly has paralyzed Manatee County's Animal Services, the administration and the entire commission; leaving constituents to wonder why they still can't find answers as to how the division slipped into such disrepair.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." These words from Mahatma Gandhi surely sit well with residents of Manatee County. In fact, considering the way locals feel about their animals, it wouldn't surprise anyone to find similar language in the county's original charter. 

So it's shocking that county commissioners haven't taken the reins from the culture of mistakes running the county's animal services division, because the public isn't satisfied with commissioners only throwing a few bucks at the problem, while giving a little lip-service to citizen outrage, along with a promise that they would fix the problems once they find out what they are.

When the administration asked the Manatee County Sheriff's Office to investigate, they knew such an investigation would buy them some time. Meanwhile, citizens have been sitting on their hands wondering why resolve is not front and center.

In an email to commissioners, Michael Pepper wrote:

"As an animal lover I am appalled at the lack of action taken by the county commissioners regarding animal services. You all seem to look in the opposite direction when confronted with these questions. It is time to act responsibly instead of turning the other way. Why is there a vet on consulting fees and not a vet that is employed by the county."

DiSabatino said she "couldn't take it anymore" and that the letters, emails and phone calls from residents demanding something be done, were non-stop.

Rancid conditions found at a local shelter used by the county for overflow in its No Kill program led to multiple arrests, but citizens want to know why it took so long, despite so many warnings, for the county to realize that problems with the program and its Animal Services division were so profound. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Charles Roberts set an October 20 trial date for the shelter's owners, Alan and Sheree Napier.

TBT emailed all of the commissioners, the county administrator and county attorney Micky Palmer, asking about DiSabatino's request; and only received replies from Commissioner Michael Gallen and Palmer.

In reply, Gallen wrote:  "I would gladly attend a special meeting and I believe we need to address numerous concerns with AS (animal services) - in fact I've appealed over a month ago to the admin via email and at a board meeting to put AS leaders on admin leave." Gallen added, "I've lost confidence in AS and I've ready stated such. Unfortunately only Larry (commission chair Larry Bustle) can call a meeting." 

Micky Palmer's reply read: "The first sentence of Section 4.1.2 of the Board's adopted procedures reads as follows: 'A special meeting of the Board may be called by the Chairman or by a majority of the Commissioners present at a meeting of the Board.' There are thus two ways in which a special meeting can be scheduled. Since the latter of the two methods is an impossibility in the present circumstances (the board is in the midst of its monthlong summer recess), it would be necessary for Chairman Bustle to call for such a meeting. Should Chairman Bustle determine to do so, my office will be happy, if called upon, to assist the Administration with logistics."

DiSabatino spent Tuesday in her office and said that the only contact she received was the constant flow of complaints from the public. DiSabatino added, "I was told that when the Sheriff's investigation is over, the county would move on the matter." 

It seems one can only underestimate the concerns Manatee County residents have for animals, and it is highly unlikely the community will wait until after the election to resolve the issue. It has been six months since Administrator Ed Hunzeker announced No Kill as one of Manatee County's great accomplishments on January 29, 2014, in his County Annual 2013 Report. Hunzeker knew of the many problems plaguing the program then but chose not to address public concerns, and it seems he still won't. When commissioners return from their summer break, they are likely to find a public still outraged and demanding resolve.


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