The members of AELLA would like to report on an issue that is very close to its home base in southwest Florida, pertaining to the workings of the city of Bradenton and its roadside maintenance. It has come to our attention that city maintenance workers, such as those who trim trees or mow lawns on the side of our roads, are being silenced in regard to the treatment of wildlife, as well as the trea
tment of stray and feral animals.
Through investigation and via anonymous testimony(as workers do not wish to lose their employment), we have discovered that horrific acts have been occurring, such as the placement of downed birds’ nests(with live baby birds still inside) being thrown into trash compactors or being left at the base of trees for babies to fend for themselves after having their supporting branches taken down. Statements regarding such treatment are explained away by city employers with claims that the city of Bradenton’s residents can not justify the time, money or effort that it would take to care for them or bring them to wildlife rescues.
Certain city workers that we have spoken to, actually do rescue some the animals and bring them to sanctuaries on their own time, but it has become more difficult for them to remain silent in regards to the regular treatment of stray domesticated animals and wildlife. There was even a push from workers to put a stop to some of this brutality, where they had asked for a written policy against animal cruelty several months ago, but we have been informed by those workers that the entire problem has been “swept under the rug”.
One city worker had been feeding a colony of stray cats in the city yard(which is controlled by Bradenton Parks and Recreation, as well as the city's sanitation department) and has received several reprimands by the superintendent of his department, including posturing by said department pertaining to the negative status of his employment. This worker actually has gone to the yard on his own free time to clean and bleach areas where the cats urinate, in fear that whoever within said department made said threat, decides to "make good" on them. In between receiving verbal/written reprimands for cleaning out cat food-bowls or caring for the cats in general, he asserts in defense of himself, "I have done nothing wrong".
Upon suggesting to the superintendent that he contact the local humane society, asserting that the worker was doing the right thing by caring for these cats, he was informed that the issue would be taken care of. The very next day, the superintendent met with the worker and told him that he was to stop feeding the feral cats and that he was also to remove all of said cats from city property, which is an act that goes against Manatee county policy ordinance. Manatee county ordinance holds a “no kill” policy, mandating that all feral cats that are removed from any public area must be spayed/neutered, ear tagged, then returned to the very same place from which they came.
The city worker was apparently given a week by his superintendent to remove the feral cats and in reply, he informed the superintendent that he refused to illegally remove the cats. He asserted that the cats were homeless and had nowhere else to go. He promptly requested to speak with the superintendent’s supervisor, which is the head of public works, a request that was denied. He was informed by his superintendent that the director of public works would not meet with him regarding the matter because it would break the “chain of command” as per city policy and it left the concerned worker with no further target to direct his grievance.
In desperation, he informed them that animal rights activists would soon be making waves in regard to the issue(well, here we are) and would be calling on the city of Bradenton to resolve these issues properly. Of course, he was told not to direct said activists to the specific office, but rather, have them contact city hall with their grievance. One week later, the worker proceeded to contact several animal rights groups regarding the issue, making the mistake of posting publicly on a Manatee county “no kill” page on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, he received a letter from his superintendent, informing him that a “pre-disciplinary” hearing was set up for him on the following day regarding “insubordination” for not removing the feral cats and nurturing/feeding them on city property, after having been given a week from which to remove them.
The worker was also being accused of intimidating, inciting, coercing and conspiring against the city, as well as it’s good name, from which city officials would have to defend itself against animal rights activists’ accusations or the public speaking out in regard to the city’s inner workings. Upon meeting with the union president, as well as his union steward in defense of his actions, he was informed that in no way, should he lose his job concerning the issue, but when he returned to work the next day, the collective actions of the office spoke a completely different language. To begin with, he was immediately made to clean the entire area where the cats’ feeding station was, as not to “entice” the cats.
The entire office also had a meeting with members from all departments that morning, informing all employees that no one was to feed any animals on city properties and that no one was permitted to make/post statements in any public media or social networks on the internet. A written policy was to be implemented, which would severely discipline anyone attempting to do either. Evidently, workers aren’t even going to be permitted to feed a peanut to a squirrel and they can not speak publicly about anything they see which might be considered as unfair, environmentally damaging or damaging to wildlife.
In a state of valid concern over improper policies in regard to wildlife(all manner of birds, squirrels, turtles, etc…), as well as homeless domesticated animals, seeing as there is no property close to the city yard that isn’t owned by the city of Bradenton where the anonymous worker could set up a feeding station, he may be forced to watch his cat-friends starve to death. This is just one of the reasons why he, as well as others, have decided that there is no other choice but to speak out regarding the issue. The worker was able to handle one older cat, as well as the final cat that he could capture, which he has brought home with him, as there is no other place for these cats to go.
Faced with the reality that if he feeds the feral cats, he will be looking at termination from his job, he has contacted city commissioners, only one of which has been helpful(Carol Whitmore, who was a proponent of the no kill resolution, has done as much as she can…with public outcry, she may be able to help more), however, others have answered with a less than hopeful “I can’t do anything about this” type of reply.
The petition will automatically email the contacts below.
Public Works and Utilities Department
1411 Ninth St. W.
Mayor Wayne Poston: firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 932-9450
Vice Mayor/Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo: email@example.com (941) 932-9448
Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 932-9449 ext. 449
Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff: email@example.com (941) 932-9453
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 932-9454 ext. 454
Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd: email@example.com
Director of Public Works Claude Tankersley: firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 708-6300 ext. 222
Superintendent Ricard Ramos: email@example.comGeneral (941) 708-6300 ext. 223
Support Services Section Manager Dave Beauchamp: firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 708-6300 ext. 245
Superintendent of Parks and Recreations Gary Kinder: gary.kinder@cityofBradenton.com (941) 708-6343
The AELLA team
City of Bradenton, Florida: Take responsibility for animals: http://aella.org/2012/11/city-of-bradenton-florida-take-responsibility-for-animals/
I have also been informed that your city has in place, a "no kill" mandate, which allows for the capture, spay/neuter and release of stray animals. If this is the case, why have you neglected to employ such a tactic on the grounds of your public works facility, where an obvious colony of stray cats exists?
Quite frankly, I applaud those who save our precious wildlife and care for homeless domesticated animals. If reports from city employees are accurate, I find the knowledge of the city of Bradenton's stance on this issue to be detestable, at best.
I am writing to urge you to take a proper stance in regard to this issue and employ due diligence to amend your policies, taking the welfare of wildlife, as well as stray domesticated animals into account.
It is inconceivable to hear that city maintenance workers are encouraged to kill or disregard downed nests of live baby birds, or that workers caring for stray cats are being threatened with termination over their display of compassion.
Do not punish your employees for showing compassion toward life, but rather, embrace their compassion and work with them toward saving those lives. Do the right thing and work with the compassionate people that you already have in your employ. Do not threaten them or silence them.
It is your responsibility to not only properly care for the wildlife and stray animals in your fair city, but also to treat your employees with fairness, with common decency. I will lend my voice publicly in regard to holding you to those responsibilities.