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Should Manatee Rider Have Been Arrested?

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez was arrested Nov. 24 and charged in connection with an illegal ride on a manatee at Fort De Soto Park in late September.

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.

oldman71 November 26, 2012 at 02:17 PM
No way. This innocuous woman admitted her mistake and came forward on her own. We have real crimes and needs in this community. The fools who did this should be fired.
Catherine November 26, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I'm in agreement with 'oldman71'; as well, Ms.Gutierrez should never have been arrested at work - how humiliating. Since she mentioned having been new to living in our area, perhaps she really didn't know it was illegal to commit the crime of riding a manatee. Still though, just seems a bit nuts to have done so. Let her pay the fine, do some community work and go on with life.
Bill Stokes November 26, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Without enforcement, laws are worthless. It was correct to arrest this woman because she broke the law and the public needs to be educated that to violate these animal protection laws you are liable for the consequences. The publicity generated by this will be more beneficial to education than the information disseminated that people like her fail to get.
Ellen Rentz November 26, 2012 at 07:37 PM
She turned herself in on Oct. 2. I am sure they knew where she lived. Why go arrest her at work? They issued a warrant and arrested her at work the same day. Inexcusable. They just wanted the publicity. There was no reason to embarrass her like that.
oldman71 November 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Today we learn that a teen who murdered a security guard on Thanksgiving was out on the streets despite having been arrested for robbing two ATM users at gunpoint within the week, and after ten previous felony convictions. Where is the perspective on who needs to be arrested and confined? We need some new people on the bench.
Justin Rubner January 07, 2013 at 10:51 AM
Was this manatee harmed? No. 30 percent of manatee deaths, meanwhile, are caused by boaters. Why isn't the Pinellas County sheriff's department issuing a fatwa against boaters? And arresting her at her place of employment? Way to go. http://breakingthelawtv.com/lawbreakers-manatee-rider-arrested/

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