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Napier sanctuary wants its animals back

Bradenton, Florida -- A follow up to a 10 News investigation regarding the Napier Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary in East Manatee County, where deputies removed more than 300 animals earlier this month.

In a court hearing on Monday, the Napiers agreed to allow the Manatee Sheriff's Office to spay and neuter the animals that are now in foster homes or being cared for at other animal rescues.

Attorney Peter Lombardo also told reporters after the hearing that his clients want their animals back and they want to continue operating the animal sanctuary.

Alan and Sheree Napier filed for bankruptcy on February 18, a few hours before their home went on the auction block due to foreclosure. Since then, the Napiers have been seen at the property cleaning it up. There are bags of trash out front, filled with dog food boxes and feed bags.

"It's a rough time that they are going through," said Lombardo.

Manatee Sheriff's deputies conducted a raid of Napier's Horse and Animal Sanctuary on February 5 while the couple was on a cruise for their 27th wedding anniversary.

Lombardo said, "They think it's completely unfair. They want the animals. They'd like to have the option of donating the animals out."

Deputies removed more than 300 animals for alleged animal abuse and neglect, and poor living conditions.

STORY: Manatee animal sanctuary investigation continues

According to the search warrant and petition filed by the Manatee Sheriff's Office on February 14th seeking custody of the animals, 12 animals were euthanized on-site, 20 animals were found buried in a shallow grave, a dozen dog bones were found in a burn pit, and deputies found an unknown number of dogs in a feed bag.

The search warrant also shows some of the animals suffered from ear/nose/eye infections, urine scalding, malnourishment, dehydration, anemia, lethargy, diarrhea, dental disease, corneal ulcers, external and internal parasites, fleas, lice and mange.

"We're talking about a rescue they. Take in sick animals, some got better, some didn't get better. All taken care of, given vet care. Like people, some of the animals passed away," explained Lombardo.

"It died a year later from kidney failure," said John Brower, referring to a dog he said he and Christopher Wilhelm bought from Napier in 2011. The men say they found the Pomeranian, named Mia, on Pet Finder and paid Napier $350. The dog was a gift for their elderly neighbor who had recently lost her dog.

"We drove in, they brought the dog out to the picnic table up front, and wouldn't let us pass it," said Brower.

"This looked like a rat with mange hair, most of it missing. It was cute in a sad, pathetic way," said Wilhelm.

Brower said the dog turned out to be diabetic, had intestinal worms, and was infested with fleas. They groomed Mia before giving it to their neighbor. But at the time of the purchase, Brower said he bought the dog to save it.

"My thought... rescue the dog. Rescue the dog from the rescue."

The Manatee Sheriff's Office is trying to gain legal custody of the animals, saying the Napiers are not fit to care for them. The Napiers' attorney said his clients want their animals back and plan to reopen the animal sanctuary.

Lombardo said, "They've been in business for nine years. Animal Services never had an issue with him. Animals Services was out on December 17, saw 100 dogs, didn't take any away or site Napier for anything."

10 News obtained through a public records request photos of that December 17 inspection. According to the inspection report, Manatee County Animal Services visited Napier's on 12/10/13 and 12/12/13. Both times, no one came out to the locked gate, notices were posted, and phone messages left. Inspectors returned on December 17 and reported Alan and Sheree Napier guiding them through the property.

Inspector Jerry Hill wrote in the report, "Although the conditions are not the best here at Napiers, they do fall under the county and state requirements."

Hill indicated in his report he asked if there were animals in the house and was told no. Deputies found dozens of animals stacked in kennels inside the Napier's home nearly two months later.

The custody hearing for the animals will be March 12. Both attorneys agree the hearing will take two days.

The Rescue: Napier's Animal Sanctuary: 300 rescued, county inspections showed "no issues"

More: Deputies confiscate 8 horses from Manatee Co. sanctuary

The Investigation: State records show Napier's operated as charity with expired license
Manatee animal sanctuary investigation continues
Manatee Co. calls for independent audit of Animal Services
Napier petitioned to forfeit custody of over 300 animals

The Politics: Napier fallout: 'Hands are tied' when inspecting rescue groups

Manatee commissioner reacts to animal rescue

Rehab: Honor Animal Rescue stretched thin caring for animals from cruelty cases
PHOTOS: Napier Animal Sanctuary horses rehabilitate

The Fallout: Manatee Co. animal sanctuary declares bankruptcy


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