For Immediate Release:
October 6, 2022
David Perle 202-483-7382
Austin, Texas – A just-released report obtained by PETA from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that Austin Aquarium—apparently run by convicted wildlife trafficker Ammon Covino—received a repeat critical citation after a kinkajou bit a boy’s hand during an encounter, causing an injury that required medical attention. According to the report, the notorious outfit was cited for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act by failing to exhibit the kinkajou in a way that ensures safety for the animal and the public.
The news comes on the heels of PETA’s recent undercover investigation into Austin Aquarium, which documented that a staff member said, “Guests usually get it bad whenever they get bit by a kinkajou.” In a two-month period, 12 guests were bitten by lemurs and a kinkajou. According to one worker, after a lemur bit a child with a cochlear implant, Covino even instructed staff, “No more retarded kids in lemurs.” Covino is prohibited from holding a USDA exhibitor’s license because of his criminal history but appears to have continued his involvement with operating Austin Aquarium by using his wife’s name on official paperwork.
“Austin Aquarium seems to think it’s just the cost of doing business if kids are bitten day in and day out by stressed animals,” says PETA Foundation Director and Counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on people to steer clear of this dangerous spot, where deprivation, excessive handling, and noisy crowds agitate already stressed wild animals.”
Even though management knows that attacks must be reported to authorities, PETA’s investigator was told never to document them. The group’s investigation also revealed an aquarium employee’s reported attempt to crush a rat to death with a cinderblock, a large number of missing snakes, injured animals left to languish without veterinary care, abandoned animals, and other horrors.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.