Sole Veterinarian Reportedly Resigning From Miami Seaquarium—Shut It Down Now!

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Update (February 28, 2024): Outlets are reporting the impending resignation of the sole attending veterinarian at the Miami Seaquarium, which was cited in November 2023 for, among other animal-care failures, having only one veterinarian responsible for the care of 46 marine mammals, 50 birds, and hundreds of fish.

Animals were denied routine veterinary care for months because the Miami Seaquarium employed only one veterinarian, and now it seems it won’t even have that.

This is further proof that the Seaquarium needs to be shut down immediately. The Seaquarium’s ship has sunk, and PETA is calling on Miami-Dade County authorities to terminate this disaster’s lease immediately so that these animals can have a chance at receiving adequate care in reputable facilities.

Two recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports revealed that the Miami Seaquarium was cited for another slew of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act—many of them repeat—after inspections in October 2023 and January 2024.

In January, inspectors found the following hazards at the facility, all repeat concerns that were not remedied after previous citations were issued:

  • Sharp metal, rust, crumbling drywall, and mold in the building housing penguins
  • Broken concrete in dolphin enclosures, which poses a danger to the animals, who are known to have ingested foreign objects in the Miami Seaquarium’s tanks
  • Perimeter fence defects that could allow animals and unauthorized humans into the park
  • Rust and flaking paint in the “Tropical Wings” section of the park, which pose injury risk to the birds
  • Bacteria levels in the sea lion pool so high that it was unsafe for divers to even clean the enclosure (The bacteria pose a serious threat to the health of the animals.)

The October report includes serious failures that directly interfered with animals’ medical treatment. The facility’s attending veterinarian wasn’t given some of the basic equipment needed to provide animals with necessary care. The facility also failed to ensure that the veterinarian had appropriate authority and failed to follow the veterinarian’s treatment instructions, including for a sea lion who needed cataract surgery and began refusing food due to eye pain.

The USDA also found the following:

  • Some dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium had dangerous foreign objects in their mouths and throats, including a 2-inch nail, a broken bolt, and small pieces of shell.
  • A dolphin was kicked in the mouth by a customer during an interaction.
  • A dolphin jumped the barrier between pools and joined another social group. (A dolphin sustained several broken ribs in a similar incident at the facility in the past.)
  • Several enclosures were once again found to be dilapidated and/or containing rust, mold, and bubbling paint.

Miami-Dade County recently announced that it’s moving to revoke the facility’s license, but the animals can’t wait any longer. Please urge the mayor and the Board of County Commissioners to swiftly shut down the Miami Seaquarium:

Originally published on October 27, 2023:

A manatee named Clarity was covered with large skin lesions, and birds had plucked each other’s feathers out due to apparent distress. These are among the findings of a just-released report from the latest inspection of the Miami Seaquarium, along with nearly a dozen other alarming federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.

These most recent AWA violations—some of which were critical, repeat incidents—underscore the facility’s perpetual failure to provide adequate veterinary care, sufficient staffing, safe and well-maintained enclosures, and appropriate environmental enrichment for the animals housed there.

Read more to learn what the crummy abusement park has been cited for following multiple federal inspections.

November 28, 2023, Citations

  • Clarity, who has since been removed and sent to SeaWorld, appeared to have a progressive skin condition at the time of the inspection. She was covered with a “thick layer of algae” and had “patchy white discolorations around her nostrils, mouth, and face.” The white patches had apparently grown in size and spread over several weeks, but the attending veterinarian was unable to examine her condition properly due to a lack of appropriate facilities and equipment.
  • Several dolphins—Ripley, Panama, Onyx, and Sundance—showed signs of gastric distress. The attending veterinarian noted that some of the dolphins may suffer from ulcers and/or have ingested foreign objects—but the facility had yet to provide the equipment needed to diagnose and treat the suspected conditions properly.
  • The facility still didn’t have enough staff to care for the animals, for which it had previously been cited. A single veterinarian was responsible for the care of 46 marine mammals, 50 birds, and hundreds of fish. As a result, the veterinarian had to postpone routine physical exams for several months in order to prioritize the animals in need of urgent care.
  • The Miami Seaquarium had failed to provide a special enrichment plan for two macaws who had plucked each other’s feathers out—a common sign of psychological distress—and a parrot who had torn their own feathers out.
  • The penguin enclosure had black mold growth, peeling paint, crumbling drywall, and multiple rusted areas.
  • The wall behind a trailer housing several parrots was damaged from a parrot chewing through the metal bars, likely out of frustration or anguish. A “strong noxious” odor emanated from the trailer due to insufficient ventilation.
  • Multiple dolphin pools had broken concrete, creating rough edges that could injure the animals.

November 2, 2023, Citations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected and cited the Miami Seaquarium again for still not having enough staff members to care for the animals imprisoned there. The dump failed the animals, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) directed the relocation of three suffering manatees who had been held there.

The citation followed a prior inspection in mid-July 2023 at the Seaquarium, which revealed understaffing issues and established a deadline of October 25 for correcting the problem. However, the notorious facility failed to hire enough adequately trained employees by the time feds inspected it again in early November. After the Seaquarium’s only veterinary technician resigned, it had only two veterinarians on staff. These employees were responsible for the care of 46 marine mammals, hundreds of birds, as well as fish, sharks, and rays. No full-time support staff were available, either. The veterinarians were still unable to perform routine and preventive exams and had to keep prioritizing sick and urgent cases until additional staff could be hired.

In December 2021, FWS had directed the Seaquarium to transfer other manatees out of the facility because of its inability to care for them and blocked the Seaquarium from acquiring more rescued manatees due to its abysmal record—including the death of Snuggles, an emaciated manatee whose necropsy showed an empty gastrointestinal tract. The Seaquarium has proved that it’s either unwilling or unable to comply with even the minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act—confining animals to tiny, dilapidated concrete tanks and even starving them to force them to perform tricks for food.

On November 6, 2023, PETA wrote to Miami-Dade County’s mayor and commissioners to urge them to terminate the Miami Seaquarium’s lease in light of another USDA inspection report documenting that conditions at the facility violate the bare minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The Miami Seaquarium was cited many times by the feds prior to this disclosure, leading to this push from PETA.

miami seaquarium dolphin death photo
A dolphin named Abaco was left bloody and died at the Miami Seaquarium in 2020 after his rostrum (a dolphin’s snout) became caught in the fence of an enclosure.

Most notably, the USDA issued the Seaquarium a repeat citation for failing to maintain enclosures in good repair, a critical citation for housing a dolphin with others who apparently had broken several of her ribs and for holding a manatee without another member of his species, and citations for failing to provide protection from direct sunlight and allowing a dolphin trainer to undermine the attending veterinarian’s authority.

Enclosures in a state of disrepair pose a safety and health risk to the animals.

The enclosure for Elelo, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, had a layer of broken, flaking concrete, some of which the dolphin ingested along with a plastic zip tie and some other plastic that the Seaquarium uses and introduced into the area. Months later, Elelo vomited sand and glass filtration media.

The Seaquarium has ignored the attending veterinarian’s recommendations, including one to relocate Elelo after he ingested those materials. In 2022, the attending veterinarian wasn’t consulted before some diets were decreased, to the point that animals became emaciated.

September 27, 2023, Citations

The Miami Seaquarium was cited over understaffing issues and animal-safety concerns in a damning federal inspection report by the USDA that was recently made available following a July 2023 inspection.

Miami-Dade County officials assured the public that things would change at the Miami Seaquarium—where earlier this year the long-suffering orca Lolita died in a tiny tank—yet this latest USDA report proves that animals there continue to suffer.

PETA Protest at The Miami Seaquarium Features Dolphin Mascot

The feds cited the Miami Seaquarium for creating a stressful environment for humans and other animals.

The notorious facility was cited for apparently doing the following:

  • Having vacancies in vital staff positions, including veterinarian and vet tech roles, which left a single veterinarian responsible for the care of almost 50 marine mammals and hundreds of birds, fish, and other animals
  • Failing to prevent a dolphin from biting a patron’s hand during an interactive session
  • Allowing a dolphin to ingest plastic, sand, glass filtration materials, and a chunk of cement from a deteriorating tank
  • Failing to provide a manatee kept in isolation with adequate shade from the sun
  • Housing a dolphin with incompatible tankmates, leading to the animal sustaining multiple bilateral rib fractures

The county must break the Miami Seaquarium’s cycle of abuse.

PETA is calling on officials to shut the facility down and ensure that the dolphins and all the animals there are sent to sanctuaries, where they would finally start recovering from their lifetime of trauma and get the care they so desperately need.

PETA supporters and a dolphin mascot protest outside The Miami Seaquarium

What You Can Do

Stay a nautical mile away from this—or any—greedy and incompetent marine abusement park. Urge officials to shut down the Miami Seaquarium over animal safety concerns and send the remaining animals there to reputable sanctuaries:

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