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Citizens demand staff changes at Manatee County Animal Services

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Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014 6:21 pm

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Community concerns over Manatee County Animal Services lead to a big turn out last night’s advisory board meeting. Hundreds of angry residents packed the meeting to call for the firing of officials with Animal Services.

"There are problems, I’m not going to lie, there are problems over the last few years in our attempt to become no kill,” says Luke Berglund, chairman of the Animal Services Advisory Board, referring to animal services move to transition to a no-kill shelter. The group is charged with monitoring and helping to create policy for Manatee County Animal Services.

"You know people want answers and they want a result,” Berglund says. “There are people enamored with hiring and firings and all those sorts of things."

Most of the assembled crowd’s anger came was directed at Kris Weiskopf, the director of Manatee County Animal Services. And while he wasn't available for an interview, he did tell us that the constant accusations against him and the agency have been a major distraction to accomplishing their goal.

That said, the community's anger isn't going unnoticed.

"For a number of years, I think the board was a bit insolated from these comments,” says Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen. “But since the Napier's incidents came about, I’m pretty confident all seven of the board members are paying attention."

In April, more than 300 animals were removed from the Napier Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary amid allegations of animal abuse. The Napier’s have pled guilty to all charges and are currently awaiting an October trial.

The Napier situation went unnoticed despite regular inspections by Animal Services. Gallen says after the arrest of the Napiers, he called for the personnel changes within Animal Services but the move was voted down. He says the latest call for action has them revisiting the issue.

"I’m concerned and I think that we need action quickly and we need to restore the confidence in animal services and we are listening to these citizens and we will respond," Gallen says.

And while Manatee county commissioners contemplate their options, the advisory board says they are trying to remain positive.

"If I was to ask the public anything it is to be patient,” says Berglund. “We've got a lot of good things in the works, and quite frankly, compared to the past 5, 6 years, there's been a lot more positives than negatives in my opinion."

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