Manatee County, Florida -- A multi-agency raid on an animal rescue center in East Manatee County found hundreds of animals living in poor conditions, according to Manatee sheriff's deputies.
Behind the gate at Napier Horse and Animal Sanctuary off State Road 64, deputies found more than 300 animals, mostly dogs such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas. Deputies also found cats in cages, nine emaciated horses, goats, geese, pigs, and chickens.
So far 12 dogs had to be euthanized and 8 shallow dog graves were found in the back yard.
"What we're finding is deplorable," said Dave Bristow, spokesperson for the Manatee Co. Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said the filthy conditions were home to about 30 of the dogs. Bristow said, "Conditions I can't believe someone would live in, but they are."
The conditions were also deemed "unsafe" by the county. Volunteers checked the animals one by one. Some looked better than others. Local rescue groups picked up the healthier ones.
"It's a happy day for these animals to get out of here," said ChrisLegge with the Lakewood Ranch Humane Society.
"I'm elated," said Deborah Bird, president of the Florida Dachshund Rescue, Inc. Bird lives near Napier's sanctuary.
Bird said, "Nobody did anything for 10 years. This is our hallelujah day."
Bird said she and others have complained to the county about conditions at the not-for-profit animal rescue center. "One main issue -- a sanctuary should not be closed to the public. Those gates never opened," she said.
Then there are the pictures she took from a neighbor's home a few months ago. "Dead rats in food bowls, sick animals lying in feces," described Bird. The animal rights advocate said she spent many sleepless nights worrying about the animals at Napier's Sanctuary.
"You look at these faces, you can never forget them ... It took too long, too long," says Bird.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, owners Shereeand Alan Napier could face possible animal abuse and fraud charges. Deputies issued the search warrant while the Napiers were out of town on vacation. As for the animals rescued today, many will be put up for adoption.
Adron Walker, the attorney representing the Napiers, said, "This closure also occurred despite the fact that Alan and Sheree have maintained an open, continuous dialogue with Manatee County Animal Services for years and are typically inspected by Manatee County Animal Services on a quarterly basis."
READ: Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary responds
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