- February 24, 2023
After several months of negotiations, Manatee County Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement on Dec. 14 that will see the Bishop-Parker Foundation donate its $10 million Bishop Animal Shelter to Manatee County.
The Bishop Animal Shelter, run by the Bishop-Parker Foundation since 1958, will be taken over by Manatee County in March. Two years ago, a new, 25,000 square foot facility was constructed just across the parking lot and was originally built to be an isolation area. It includes two large areas for dogs that provide outdoor access and automatic drainage. Dogs also have access to fenced in yards that are both grass and artificial turf.
Bishop Animal Shelter can hold up to 372 animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds. The Palmetto facility was built in 1940 to house 80 dogs. Brown said previously the facility far exceeds that number and has had an average of 156 on any given day since 2016 with a high of 190 dogs.
Manatee County Animal Services Division Chief Sarah Brown said that Bishop will initially be an animal intake service for Manatee County. It offers two surgical rooms and has space for a third if needed. Bishop also has an isolation area for dogs, something that is lacking at the current Manatee County Animal Services facility in Palmetto.
Adoptions will still take place at the Palmetto facility. Brown said the Bishop adoption buildings, which date back to 1958, are in need of extensive repairs that include replacing fencing, drainage and the roof.
The contract between the Bishop Foundation and Manatee County has a reverter clause that would mean the county would give the shelter back to the foundation if the county does not maintain a 90 percent live release rate. The facility must keep its name, and the county must install plaques to honor the life and work of Edward and Lillian Bishop and Mary Parker.
“That should be pretty easy to do,” Brown said. “We will basically run the animal shelter and continue to do the operations the same way Bishop did.”
Commissioners were grateful for the work done by the foundation and the county to make it happen, with several saying it was a monumental day for Manatee County.
“I couldn't be more excited,” Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said. “Even though I am so far away in Lakewood Ranch, it doesn't matter. I've been there and it's wonderful and it is such a step up for us.”
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said that the county has the original designs on the new Bishop Shelter, meaning that a similar facility could be built in East Manatee County. The county has budgeted $6 million for an East County shelter that would be build on county land across from Haile Middle School on State Road 64 in its 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.
"I'm still pushing for that," she said. "And hopefully, you guys (her fellow commissioners) will help me get that done."