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PETA Urges Feds to Investigate Report of Isolated, Overworked Dolphin at ‘Theater of the Sea’

Dolphin Reportedly Kept in Constant Isolation, May Be Forced to Perform Without Required Rest in Apparent Violation of Federal Law, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
August 26, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382  

Monroe County, Fla. –  This morning, PETA sent an urgent letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an inspection of Islamorada-based marine-mammal park Theater of the Sea, which—according to a concerned visitor’s report—is keeping a dolphin named Sherman in constant isolation from other dolphins, even though federal law generally requires that dolphins be housed together. The visitor also reports that Sherman is the only dolphin at the facility who is forced to perform in shows, which he reportedly does several times every day in addition to interacting directly with the public, which may leave him overworked and stressed, in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“Dolphins are social beings who desperately need the companionship of other dolphins—yet Sherman is reportedly kept alone without the comfort of other dolphins,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the government to intervene in this apparently overworked, lonely dolphin’s behalf—and on all families to stay far away from cruel marine parks such as the Theater of the Sea.”

In their natural habitats, dolphins swim up to 100 miles each day with their family pods, with whom they communicate through whistles and body language. When dolphins are injured or dying, others will come to their aid, supporting them at the water’s surface so that they can breathe. In marine-mammal parks, dolphins are separated from their families and forced to perform confusing tricks and swim in endless circles in barren tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub.

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PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.

August 27, 2013

Elizabeth Goldentyer,
D.V.M.Regional Director
USDA/APHIS/AC Eastern Region

Via e-mail:

Re: Request for Investigation of Report of Isolated, Overworked Dolphin at Theater of the Sea (License Number 58-C-0182)

Dear Dr. Goldentyer:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspect Theater of the Sea (license number 58-C-0182) for apparent violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). A concerned citizen reports visiting Theater of the Sea several times throughout 2013 and observing a dolphin named Sherman who was kept in isolation from other dolphins on every occasion. Since dolphins are social animals who require companionship for their well-being, please inspect Theater of the Sea to ensure that the park is not keeping Sherman isolated, in violation of 9 C.F.R. § 3.109, which mandates that “[m]arine mammals, whenever known to be primarily social in the wild, must be housed in their primary enclosure with at least one compatible animal of the same or biologically related species.”

The citizen also expresses concern that Sherman may be overworked. Reportedly, he is the only dolphin at the facility who is forced to perform several shows per day and to participate in boat tours, which may violate 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(c)(2) (“[p]erforming animals shall be allowed a rest period between performances at least equal to the time for one performance”), § 2.131(d)(1) (“[a]nimals shall be exhibited only … under conditions consistent with their good health and well-being”), and § 2.131(b)(1) (“[h]andling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause … behavioral stress … or unnecessary discomfort”).

Please ensure that Sherman is housed and handled in accordance with the AWA and hold Theater of the Sea accountable for any and all violations. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please inform me of the complaint number that your agency assigns to this correspondence.

Very truly yours, 

Delcianna Winders
Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement