A woman accused of riding a manatee was arrested Nov. 24 and charged with violating the Manatee Sanctuary Act. But, should she have been?
Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, had been photographed sitting on and riding a manatee in Fort De Soto Park on Sept. 30.
Should she have been arrested and charged? Was this a waste of time for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office?
In our story posted Saturday, Patch readers had various opinions.
- Jennifer wrote, "This is ridiculous. The woman is an idiot, but what she did does not warrant being arrested where she works on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, where everyone could see it. How cruel!"
- Christine Petellat said both sides are wrong. "She was ignorant for riding a wild animal. The cops were ignorant for going to her job and not somewhere, anywhere else."
- DeElizabethan said, "Life is so much kinder when you pay attention to others and follow the laws."
After Gutierrez's picture had been published by media sources, Gutierrez turned herself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 2. Her charges were then forwarded to the State Attorney's Office.
The State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for her arrest on Saturday, Nov. 24, and she was arrested that day at her place of employment at the Sears in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.
Gutierrez had claimed to be new to the area and didn't realize touching manatees was illegal at the time she turned herself in. Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies explained to her the laws protecting manatees and possible consequences.
According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is unlawful for any person to intentionally or negligently disturb a manatee in any way. Violations are considered second degree misdemeanors. The animals are listed as endangered.
Beach goers who saw Gutierrez astride a manatee had summoned park rangers, who contacted deputies. By the time they arrived, Gutierrez had dropped out of sight.