Conditions at Palmetto Animal Shelter Trigger Construction in Lakewood Ranch Area | East County

When entering an animal shelter, those looking to adopt a pet probably don’t expect to see crowded kennels, paint bubbles on interior walls, mold and overcrowded storage rooms.

But these problems were visible at the Manatee County Animal Services Center in Palmetto.

Supporters at an East County animal shelter say these issues amplify the need for a new facility, a hot topic among Manatee County commissioners this year.

Commissioners approved a budget on Sept. 14 that includes $ 6 million to build the East County Animal Shelter, but that process has even more hurdles to overcome as the plans must be approved by the commission.

Adding to the lack of clarity is the expected donation from the Bishop Animal Shelter in Bradenton. Bishop was built in 1958 and a few kennels were added in 2001. Over the past year, a new $ 10 million intake facility with state-of-the-art medical equipment, seamless floors for easier cleaning. and a drainage system that flushes individual drains with water have been added.

Some commissioners questioned whether a new facility should be built if the county bought out Bishop, a 27,000 square foot facility compared to the 19,000 square foot facility in Palmetto. Bishop has 53 kennels and an isolation area for dogs compared to Palmetto, which does not have an isolation area. The Palmetto has 10 cages for the isolation of cats. Cat adoptions are done at Cat Town in Bradenton.

The Palmetto facility was built in 1940 to accommodate 80 dogs. Manatee County Animal Services Division chief Sarah Brown said the facility far exceeded that number and has averaged 156 dogs per day since 2016 with a maximum of 190 dogs.

“Ideally, we wouldn’t have more than 80 dogs or 30 cats at this facility,” Brown said. “If we had 80 dogs, we would be very happy.

Overpopulation is only one of the problems. Storage space being scarce, the authorities transformed one of the cupboards into a surgical room for veterinary care. Brown said the room had to be gutted due to mold and the ceilings were removed due to a rat infestation, which she said has since been reduced.

A dog awaits adoption inside a kennel at the Manatee Animal Shelter. Overcrowding means that guillotine doors meant to give dogs more space and access to get in and out must be kept closed. Photo by Scott Lockwood

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said asbestos had to be removed last year and $ 400,000 was spent on repairs, a figure that included $ 190,000 to increase electrical capacity. This allowed the installation of exhaust fans to move air throughout the building.

“I told the commissioners that we needed it for years,” she said. “So we had to spend the money because we couldn’t literally put a whole bunch of dog fans out because the system couldn’t handle it. It’s kind of an embarrassment for the dog. county.

The Friends of Manatee County Animal Services, a group that goes beyond the services and treatment the county cannot provide, spent $ 50,000 on sod for the dogs just outside the shelter. The organization’s president, Kassandra Zess-Pagel, said the condition of the facility is unsafe for pets and humans.

“We would love to have a new shelter because a lot of the conditions here are very old,” said Zess-Pagel.

The Bishop facility is more at the cutting edge of technology.

“Our facility was built more as a quick detention center and not for adoptions,” Brown said. “Bishop would help with a lot of things. First, we wouldn’t have closet surgeries. Sanitation is also extraordinary. It’s basically brand new, and who doesn’t want something new and shiny? “

Whitmore said the county was still gathering information on Bishop. Under the deal, the county would hire some of Bishop’s employees and the Bishop Parker Foundation would keep half of the land for its own use.

Mold and mildew cover an exterior wall facing the parking lot of the Manatee County Animal Services facility. Photo by Scott Lockwood

Whitmore said whether or not Bishop embarks for the county, an East County shelter is still needed. Whitmore led the charge to get $ 6 million included in the five-year capital improvement plan that commissioners passed as part of the 2022 budget. She said design work could begin later this year. grade and that a shelter would be located on county property south of State Road 64, across from Carlos E. Haile Middle School and School House Drive.

Whitmore said the Palmetto facility will close once Bishop is up and running. She said the facility could be sold to a bird or wildlife rescue group for $ 1.

“My thought is to give it to an organization as is,” she said. “Wildlife Inc. on Anna Maria Island is the only place for wildlife. They literally have a 1,200 square foot space. We have a bird rescue. We’re saving all those pelicans that these local vets operated on, and there’s no place for them to rest, other than this wildlife bank. It’s just awful.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh has said whether the Palmetto facility will be closed and, if so, what to do with it, has not been decided. She also said donating the Palmetto facility would not be fiscally responsible and the land could possibly be reallocated to low-income housing.

Commissioner George Kruse said he believed the buildings did not appear viable for any purpose. He said the land could be reallocated for something else, such as affordable housing or commercial use.

“It’s just an obsolete building in the wrong location because of the growth patterns in Manatee County,” Kruse said. “You’d probably be better off putting the excess land and finding something else for this property.” “

Kruse said he hopes the county can get Bishop’s facilities, which were donated in January, up and running as quickly as possible. He called the delay in finalizing the donation “disheartening.”

“It means there is no urgency about it,” Kruse said. “And people don’t prioritize the way they should. We know how bad Palmetto is, and right now that’s where the animals are, and that’s where the animals are going to stay until Bishop is done.

A storage closet has been transformed into a room for surgeries and veterinary care inside the Manatee County Animal Services shelter in Palmetto. The ceiling of the room had to be removed due to a rat infestation. Photo by Scott Lockwood

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Jennifer R. Strohm

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