MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – The animal shelter at Manatee County Animal Services in Palmetto was a place David Daniels always looked forward to visiting. He became a volunteer dog walker there in June 2018.
Over the past two years, Daniels sent more than 25 emails to Manatee County leaders in hopes of seeing some changes. His biggest concern was for the dogs housed in outdoor kennels enclosed by concrete walls and a metal roof.
“A lot of them are in shade, but there is no air circulation. In August and September, there are lots of days where the temperatures are 95 or higher, humidity is unbelievable and these poor dogs are sitting in these outdoor cages, ” said Daniels. He made multiple recommendations including ceiling fans, misting fans, and regular cold water sponging to help keep the dogs cool. In one of his emails to county leaders, he wrote, “we would never allow our own dogs to spend one day in these conditions… This is an emergency. What we are allowing is inhumane”.
Daniels says he received promises that changes were coming, but no results.
“Here we are in what would have been my third summer and there is still nothing that has been done. They put a couple of fans on the floor at one end of the kennels. That is better than nothing, but it blows air across the front of these kennels, it doesn’t blow anything into the kennels,” said Daniels.
Daniels decided to take his concerns to a larger platform.
“This past week, I decided this writing the county commissioners isn’t doing me any good, so I decided to politely and respectfully post on social media just to ask as a private citizen my fellow citizens to please contact your elected official, tell them that this is a matter that we care about and to do something,” he explained.
Within a few days, he was terminated as a volunteer. The letter sent to him said, “you have continued to make malicious statements about Manatee County Animal Services and this has affected your relationship with the shelter as well as our reputation in the community”.
Daniels admits he was shocked. “I really felt that a person has a right to speak out to his elected officials and to his fellow citizens as a private citizen. I wasn’t speaking as a person that works for the shelter or representing the shelter, I was speaking as a private citizen on a matter that I know people care about, so I really thought that that kind of speech was protected,” said Daniels.
He admits he doesn’t regret speaking out, but he does regret that he is no longer allowed to volunteer. He has adopted three dogs from the shelter since he started volunteering in 2018.
8 On Your Side contacted county leaders regarding the conditions at the facility. Manatee County Animal Services Chief Sarah Brown sent 8 On Your Side this update:
We would like to address some of the concerns regarding misinformation that is circulating on social media.
Not unlike many shelters in the south that house animals in outdoor kennels, Manatee County Animal Services (MCAS), works hard to provide as much comfort as possible to those that reside in our lanai-style kennels. Manatee County Property Management Department, in conjunction with MCAS, has taken proactive steps over the last year to upgrade our shelter facility to ensure that our pets, staff, and volunteers are more comfortable.
In addition to the industrial-strength fans that reside on lanai areas of the facility, the following improvements have been made to provide relief from the summer heat:
• An ongoing issue at MCAS is the overburdened electrical system. The shelter, along with The Manatee County Property Management Department, has been working on an electrical upgrade, that is near completion. This upgrade will allow us to provide even more relief for our dogs. This will allow for temporary air-conditioning for the lanai areas aka “outside,” as well the installation of overhead exhaust fans. The exhaust fans should be arriving in the next week.
• Additional air-conditioning units in our dog impound kennels have been added and other systems replaced throughout the facility.
• Sunshades are being installed along the volunteer walkway and painting a walkway with cooling paint, to help keep the pets’ paws cooler.
• Our dogs enjoy either frozen peanut butter Kongs, frozen broth and other treats daily, to help with their mental stimulation and keep them even cooler.
Out of respect for past and present employees and their families, the County has a longstanding history of not commenting on personnel matters through the media. The same policy applies to our broader volunteer family.
8 On Your Side also contacted Commissioner Carol Whitmore Monday.
“Our board thankfully approved in September up to $400,000 for any repairs. We needed to do some repairs until we get the new shelter built which is on the way. We are working on it. Some people don’t believe that, but we are looking at building a new shelter. The county has set aside $8 million to do that. The citizens are going to raise $2 million, ” said Commissioner Whitmore.