Snooty cause may be headed for courts

Snooty panel
Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photographs show what appears to be a loose panel leading to the compartment where Snooty drowned. - Thomas Bender | Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Justice for Snooty organizer Denise Anderson said Monday she is planning to sue the South Florida Museum for what she calls negligence in the drowning of Manatee County’s official mascot, Snooty the manatee.

Anderson organized a protest at the museum on Saturday, where Florida Voices for Animals members called for the dismissal of museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio and COO Jeff Rodgers.

If they are not fired, “I will personally file a lawsuit,” Anderson told The Sun. “Snooty’s death by drowning is 100 percent due to the negligence of the South Florida Museum, and we want those negligent employees removed.”

Snooty was discovered drowned the morning of Sunday, July 23, the day after his gala birthday party and two days after his 69th birthday. He was trapped in a small area used to access the aquarium’s life support equipment, according to museum officials, who said he entered through a dislodged access panel secured by four screws and inspected daily by divers.

The world’s oldest known manatee, Snooty was too large to turn around in the confined space, and manatees are unable to swim backwards, officials said.

Photographs published by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that apparently show the access panel attached by only one screw the day before the birthday party added to Anderson’s resolve to stand up for Snooty.

“The reason I did the protest was that the COO said that divers checked that panel every day, and I thought it was suspicious that it completely fell off overnight,” the Manatee County native said.

“That’s not the way Snooty should have left us,” Anderson said. As a captive-born manatee, “His whole life was 100 percent dependent on the museum. The number one job at the museum is to provide a safe environment for Snooty and the other manatees,” she said. “And they failed.”

Museum takes safety measures

The museum has since installed 10 stainless steel screws to replace the four that originally fastened the corners, and three half-inch, high-density PVC supports to block the panel.

The museum also has requested a review of its procedures, protocols and facility by the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a group of not-for-profit, private, state and federal entities.

Anderson’s grief and the heartache of a worldwide community who loved Snooty as a family pet has given her courage to step into the spotlight, where she has received some hateful responses, but mostly encouragement, she said.

“He’s not here to speak for himself,” Anderson said. “I would take a bullet for him.”

If you have any information about Snooty’s death, contact Anderson at 941-284-4612.