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Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary founder cited for wildlife-care violations

News Release

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-648-3852

On April 30, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Law Enforcement investigators responded to public complaints that the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, a privately run wildlife rehabilitation facility in Pinellas County, was not in compliance with state and federal regulations for the care of injured or captive wildlife and protected migratory birds.

As a result of the state’s inspection, Ralph Heath, founder and permit holder for the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, was cited that day for 59 violations of the state’s Wildlife Code.

“Reports from concerned citizens indicated that the wildlife at the sanctuary were not cared for properly and were living in squalor, which violates the permit conditions under which the sanctuary operates,” said the FWC’s Lt. Steve DeLacure. “When we inspected the facility on April 30, we found animals confined in unsanitary conditions and injured wildlife that had not received proper care, a situation that demanded immediate remedial action.”

In addition to corrective measures now being undertaken at the sanctuary, FWC investigators called in wildlife veterinarians to help assess the condition of 10 birds being cared for at the sanctuary, whose injuries were extensive. Eight of 10 birds had to be humanely euthanized, the examinations revealed.

FWC investigators cited Heath for:

  • 54 violations related to failure to maintain individual daily treatment logs for wildlife being rehabilitated under his care.
  • Two violations for rehabilitation of protected migratory birds at an unapproved location.
  • One violation of failure to provide clean drinking water on a daily basis to 78 turtles housed in a single pool in unsanitary conditions, located in an off-site warehouse.
  • One violation of failure to meet minimum standard caging and water requirements for captive wildlife.

The present situation at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary remains under investigation by the FWC. During previous inspections by FWC investigators, Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary had been issued multiple warnings for similar issues.

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