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Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary founder cited for wildlife-care violations

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Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Ralph Heath, founder of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary Ralph Heath, founder of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
INDIAN SHORES, FL (WFLA) -

There's a new development in a story that WFLA News Channel 8 On Your Side investigator Mark Douglas has been following.

Ralph Heath, the founder of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores was cited for 59 violations of the state’s wildlife code.

The privately run wildlife rehabilitation facility in Pinellas County was not taking proper care of the injured and captive wildlife, according to a state agency.

The citations come after inspectors received reports from concerned citizens about the overall care of the animals at the sanctuary. Neighbors reported the animals appeared to be living in squalor.

“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,” said Lt. Steve DeLacure with the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission

State investigators with FWC were brought in to evaluate 10 birds with extensive injuries. So far, eight of the bird’s injuries were so extreme that officials had to euthanize them.

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.

It’s not the first sign of trouble for the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. During previous inspections by FWC investigators, the facility had been issued multiple warnings for similar issues. See Mark Douglas' previous reports for details.

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