TAMPA — A former Lowry Park Zoo worker is claiming he was wrongfully fired for reporting unsafe handling of animals there.
In a civil suit filed Friday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Michael Rudolph alleges Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa Inc. violated the state's whistleblower act with his termination late last year.
Rudolph claims he penned a letter to zoo general curator Leanne Rottman on Nov. 26 claiming, among other things, violations of state caging rules for potentially dangerous animals. The suit says he was fired the next day.
The letter included a report that an exhibit containing a Komodo dragon was left unlocked, according to the lawsuit. The suit also claims Randolph objected when told to "remain silent" after a zoo employee was bitten by a dusky pygmy rattlesnake. The lawsuit claims such incidents are supposed to be reported to state and federal authorities.
According to the suit, Rudolph worked as a zoo keeper from February 2005 until November. His employment overlaps with the August 2006 shooting death of Enshala, a Sumatran tiger that escaped its unlocked night house, by zoo director Lex Salisbury. The escape is not cited in the suit.
An attempt to reach Rudolph's attorney was unsuccessful. Zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said she was not aware of the lawsuit and that zoo officials generally don't comment about employment decisions.