EAST COUNTY — Karen Slomba didn’t have time to feel tired or upset as she pushed stray hairs back into her loosely fastened pony tail, wiped beads of sweat from her forehead and glanced around at the newest additions to Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue.
Slomba, associate director for Honor, moved swiftly as she prepared space for 62 dogs Honor took in after the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office closed Napier’s Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary Feb. 5, after a six-week investigation into anonymous animal cruelty tips.
The dogs will reside in a building nestled in the back of Honor’s Ranch property on Lorraine Road, until they are cleared for adoption.
Collectively, Honor took in 75 dogs and cats of the more than 300 animals, including goats, horses and pigs, confiscated from Napier’s property off State Road 64.
Law enforcement confiscated eight additional horses Monday from two other properties, located on Ballard and Wingate roads in Myakka City, owned by Alan and Sheree Napier, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow said.
Local and state agencies continue to collect evidence and build a case. The Napiers, who owned the sanctuary, face possible animal cruelty and fraud charges, but none had been filed as of press time Tuesday.
Veterinarians euthanized 12 dogs who were deemed unfit to travel and in critical condition during the raid.
Volunteers from local rescue and other groups, including the Humane Societies of Lakewood Ranch and Manatee County, Manatee County Animal Services and Second Chance Boxer Rescue, among others, transported animals off the property, once veterinarians on site at Napier’s gave clearance.
“The dogs and cats were covered with fleas and ticks, some even had feces on them when they got here,” Slomba said. “Even though they didn’t know where they were going or what was going on, some of them even looked like they were grateful.”
Transported animals experienced similar processes at each rescue, starting with a good cleaning and efforts by the volunteers to gain the animals’ trust.
Groomers from Wet Noses and Suncoast Mobile Animal Grooming spent more than eight hours clipping, trimming and shaving mattes out of the fur of Honor’s new guests.
Countywide, the rescued animals received vaccinations and flea and tick medications.
Some, however, required more costly and lengthy treatment plans.
Veterinarians Mike Bonda and Mauricio Vargas discovered eight animals at Honor with untreated heartworm illnesses, which will take extra funds and months to cure, Slomba said.
Sick animals stay in a separate medical portable building stationed at the front of Honor’s property, until they are well enough to join the other animals.
With immediate medical needs attended to, Slomba said now all the animals need is time.
Animals cannot yet be adopted — the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the case and to work to gain full custody of the animals, which are being housed at rescues until then.
However, volunteers can foster the animals rescued from Napier’s and officials encourage the public to adopt animals currently available for adoption, as a way to make space for the rescues from Napier’s.
“If you ever wanted to adopt a dog, now is the time,” Slomba said.
Slomba plans to work with Honor Executive Director Dari Oglesby and other volunteers to research emergency grant requests to fund care for the additional animals.
Honor volunteers also continue to create medical history folders for the animals and gather as much information about the dogs and cats as possible. While the names of most of the animals remain a mystery, plastic collars with numbers etched on them to differentiate one animal from another will have to do for now; Oglesby hopes to replace them with name tags soon.
“For now, they might look like just a number, but these animals mean so much more,” Oglesby said.
Individuals interested in donating items or volunteering should contact the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011, Ext. 1151.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].