MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - We're continuing to follow that massive animal hoarding case in Manatee County, where some 300 animals were taken during a raid at the Napier Log Cabin Horse and Animal Shelter on Wednesday, and we are learning more about what led up to that raid.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office says they finished the investigation on the property late Thursday afternoon, but they say the overall investigation is far from over. They also say the Napiers arrived back in the county yesterday, but they would not return our calls and the gates were locked.
And there have been many questions on this could have been going on for so long.
"There are people that say they've been aware of it for ten years." Honor Animal Rescue says they and other local rescues have been speculating this for years as well, but had no idea the extent of the conditions and health hazards. "No one had any idea the magnitude of what was really going on or what, because no one was allowed behind the gate."
The Napier's lawyer said in a statement to ABC 7 that his clients maintained "continuous dialogue with Manatee County Animal Services for years, and are typically inspected by Manatee County Animal Services on a quarterly basis."
Animal Services provided ABC 7 with inspection reports from as early as 2009 until December of 2013. Reports detail that anonymous calls were made to Animal Services with suspicions of bad conditions.
"Each one of those instances, our folks were visiting, trying to make inspections."
Animal Services would leave notices and then the Napier's would contact them and allow them on property days later. "When they were able to make contact with the property owners, then they were shown certain areas that were...maybe they had time to already tidy up."
When we asked how they did not see the deplorable conditions inside, Animal Services says they are only allowed to see what the property owners show them, since it is private property.
"Animal Services officers are code enforcement officers. They're not allowed to do anything like that. You really need the force of law enforcement and a search warrant to do anything like that."