For Immediate Release:
April 8, 2022
David Perle 202-483-7382
Austin, Texas – The Austin Aquarium is in hot water after it failed to contact a veterinarian when two young otters it was exhibiting began to display abnormal behavior, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to cite the facility for failing to meet the minimal care standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the just-released inspection report obtained by PETA, one otter was observed constantly sucking on his right foot and the other otter was seen running around in circles nonstop in one area of the exhibit, both clear signs that something was amiss.
“Otters at the Austin Aquarium have been left to suffer because this greedy tourist trap can’t be troubled to consult a vet on a regular basis,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on everyone to avoid this shady petting zoo and is urging the aquarium to retire the animals there to reputable facilities.”
The Austin Aquarium has a history of failing to consult veterinarians: In 2019, a USDA inspection revealed that the petting zoo had foregone vet guidance and instead administered its own treatment to a kangaroo with ear problems.
The aquarium is also closely tied to Ammon Covino, who has spent time in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking. He was sent back to prison twice for violating parole restrictions on exhibiting fish or other wildlife—including by working at the Austin Aquarium—and then lying to his parole officer. Because of his conviction, Covino cannot legally get a federal exhibitor’s license; his wife’s name is now on the Austin Aquarium’s formal business filings. Meanwhile, Covino’s brother Vince owns the disreputable roadside aquarium chain SeaQuest. Last year alone, the USDA cited SeaQuest locations for allowing a wallaby to drown, hitting otters with a metal bowl, and allowing situations in which a child was bitten by a capybara and an adult was bitten by a sloth.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.