Save Our Seabirds received good marks during an unannounced inspection of the facility last Wednesday by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
An inspection report describes the facility as “in overall good condition with all pools clean, adequate perching and enclosures safe for the birds.”
FWC investigator Lar Gregroy wrote in the report: “The staff has a good understanding of the need to separate their exhibit birds from the birds held for rehabilitation.”
Gregory also noted that the records and record-keeping system at the facility has “vastly improved” since a previous inspection conducted April 27, 2011.
The only discrepancy noted in the report was the need for additional shelter for some larger birds during heavy rains.
“This is a testament to our caring and dedicated team of groundskeepers, maintenance, hospital and office staff and our amazing volunteers,” said David Pilston, CEO of Save Our Seabirds, in a prepared statement.
“We are very proud of the work that we do 365 days a year to provide the best possible care for sick and injured birds.”
The Sarasota City Commission directed city staff to investigate allegations former SOS volunteers and a former employee raised at its July 1 meeting. It directed staff to gather all reports, including complaints, about the facility from the FWC, FWS and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office from the last five years, and also to send code enforcement to inspect the property.
The commission will discuss the findings in August or early September.
The volunteers and employee alleged they witnessed rats kill or maim birds and that the facilities are inadequate.
One of those volunteers, Greg Para, was pleased to hear about the inspections but said he still has concerns about several issues, including whether the facility has proper permits.
“Anything that’s good for the birds is good,” Para said. “We don’t want them shut down. We just want to make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”
SOS’s rehabilitation permits were in founder Lee Fox’s name. Fox alleges the organization’s board fired her, while board members insist she rejected the terms of two offers to extend her employment. SOS employee Sarah Olivero is currently in the permitting process to obtain Fox’s rehabilitation permits, according to the report. The Captive Wildlife Office in Tallahassee confirms the application is near approval, the report states.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].