USDA Steps Up Enforcement After Dolphins Starved at Miami Seaquarium

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Update (December 5, 2022): Following global outrage because the Miami Seaquarium starved dolphins into submission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) served the facility an official warning. This reprimand is a step toward justice for these dolphins, as it establishes consequences for future violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

As the warning states, if the Miami Seaquarium is found to be in violation of federal law in the future, the USDA may seek a civil or criminal penalty for that noncompliance. We’ll have our eyes on the marine park as well.

Now that the USDA has stepped up its response to the despicable Miami Seaquarium, help us encourage officials, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, to shut down the facility and end these animals’ suffering.

Originally published October 21, 2022:

PETA just received the newest USDA inspection report the infamous Miami Seaquarium, owned by The Dolphin Company, and things just keep getting worse. Since its dismal last inspection, the Miami Seaquarium has continued to fail the animals it holds captive as well as its staff and the public, with mounting safety issues it chooses to ignore.

To force the dolphins to perform, the facility reduced their food intake by 60%. Imagine having to stretch your breakfast to last you all day. The staff member in charge of the food refused to increase the dolphins’ intake unless there was another plan to force compliance—which is to say, the staff was intentionally starving the dolphins into submission.

As a result of their meager portions, the dolphins are emaciated and attacking humans out of stress. They’re biting the public during encounters, an act of aggression that should stop an encounter then and there—but trainers have pressed on with the shows, even with prior signs of aggression on display. When it comes to staff endangerment, things are even direr: A trainer was rammed in deep water by a dolphin, who then didn’t respond to redirection or distraction. Situations like this are preventable and unnecessarily risk the safety of the staff and the dolphins.

Finally, the layout for guest interactions at Miami Seaquarium was changed without any oversight, in a way that forces the dolphins to look directly into the sunlight. Whoever came up with this change doesn’t have the dolphins’ best interests at heart, as looking into the sun will damage their eyes over time, a danger that the Miami Seaquarium was cited for last year. This change was in direct violation of instructions issued with the previous citation.

It’s clear that the dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium are being pushed to a breaking point by the facility. These sensitive animals should be in a seaside sanctuary instead of being starved, blinded, and forced to perform degrading shows for the public while in failing health. For the good of all, the cruel Miami Seaquarium must be shut down. It has proved repeatedly that it can’t be trusted to care properly for the animals it forces to perform, and now it’s risking the safety of humans, too. The facility mustn’t be allowed to harm animals any longer.

Even though her performances have stopped, Lolita the orca continues to be kept captive at the Miami Seaquarium, in the oldest and smallest orca tank in the world. Lolita, who was violently torn away from her family, still languishes in a tiny prison without the companionship of another orca. Despite the myriad issues at the Miami Seaquarium over the years, the USDA has no interest in protecting Lolita and has even exempted her from protection, as she doesn’t perform, effectively relinquishing any means it had to help her.

In their natural homes, highly social cetaceans can swim up to several dozen miles a day and dive many feet below the surface of their native waters, but Lolita and the other dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium can do none of that in their tiny tanks. The Dolphin Company should release them to seaside sanctuaries where they could live out the rest of their lives in comfort, which would be a measure of justice after a lifetime of trauma for each of them. Please urge The Dolphin Company to begin the process of moving these animals to sanctuaries where they can finally find peace.

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