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Community actions for winning changes to animal control shelter

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The Manatee County Animal Shelter in the Bradenton-Sarasota area has been in the news for several weeks with the latest events centering around three dogs in an ongoing battle to bring much needed changes to the shelter. Happy Feet, Piper, and Champ are the latest success stories from the community's ongoing demands to stop the killing.

Many readers will remember the tragic story of Bill and Buck, two beautiful dogs belonging to Karen Erskine. These two dogs were killed in relation to a biting incident in Manatee County. The story literally went around the world. Outraged citizens began to circulate information about suspicions that the animal control shelter was not actually honoring its pledge made back in 2011 to join the No Kill Coalition's policies and implement a No Kill shelter. An affadivit was given to the Support No Kill Manatee County volunteers by a former employer of the shelter that raised furthur suspicions about unnecessary killing of animals. Stories continued to circulate about the possible animal abuse that was continuing at the shelter.

Another incident occurred several weeks ago when Kayla Lippert took her toddler to the shelter to meet and greet a dog by the name of Happy Feet with the intention of adopting the dog. She was an eye witness to abuse of the dog when a shelter employee entered the play yard and threw a chair at the dog in what appeared to be the employee's attempt at provoking the dog. She took her story to the press. Happy Feet was put into quarantine for the required ten days and because of the reputation of the high-kill shelter, citizens continued their onslaught of complaints and demands. Piper and Champ, two pit bulls, were also in grave danger.

This incident brought a firestorm of demands from the community that the abuse should stop immediately with added demands that the employee should be fired and the killings should also be immediately stopped. Emails, faxed statements, and phone calls bombarded city officials for weeks. Citizens in Manatee County were finally at the end of their patience with animal control employees at the shelter. Social media was used to call attention to the shelter.

An emergency board meeting of the Manatee Animal Services took place on July 9 angry citizens speaking about more stories about animal abuse and also about abuse of people going to the shelter to adopt animals.

Results of the community actions were that the killings were halted for Piper and Champ, and Happy Feet has been adopted. The community has now begun a fight to stop the shelter from using the heart-stick to euthanize animals for space. The policy of a true No Kill shelter that is supported by the No Kill Coalition is that euthanasia is only for terminally ill animals or animals that have been severely injured and cannot be saved. Killing for space is not an option of a true No Kill shelter. Rescue shelters around the area and in other parts of the country are always available to network animals, and the Manatee County Animal Services is aware now that they must step up their efforts in networking animals. They have also implemented the use of occasional free adoption events and interested fur-baby parents only need to pay county licensing fees.

Citizens of Manatee County will continue to monitor the Animal services shelter with social media and press releases. An election will be held in November to elect commissioners and other officials that support a true No Kill shelter.

The included video is an example of what the citizens in Manatee County would like for an outcome for the employee at the shelter who was at the center of the controversy with Happy Feet, and an ongoing investigation is being conducted.

The citizens of this county are to be commended for their efforts and the animals are the winners of their actions.

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