Feds Cite Local Aquarium Over Risky Conditions, Failure to Provide Timely Vet Care

For Immediate Release:
February 1, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382


Just obtained by PETA, a newly released inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that the agency hit Houston Interactive Aquarium & Animal Preserve with four new citations for failing to meet even the minimal care standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. In less than two years, the aquarium received 15 citations—including two critical citations and four for repeat violations—and an official warning from the USDA.

The violations resulting in the newly released citations include the following:

  • Failing to notify a veterinarian of a squirrel’s skin condition, which “could lead to suffering and worsening” of the problem
  • Failing to have a program of veterinary care for a dog (The facility later chose to remove the dog in lieu of including the animal in such a program.)
  • Failing to have a complete contingency plan for emergencies and disasters, putting “the well-being of the facilities’ animals at risk”
  • Failing to maintain an appropriate otter enclosure—the enclosure had pieces of “very hot” metal around a window that could burn or injure the animals

“No matter how often the USDA slaps Houston Interactive Aquarium with citations, this seedy facility somehow finds new ways to neglect and endanger animals and lure the public to shell out money to visit it,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on everyone to avoid such roadside zoos, which allow animals to be poked, prodded, and placed in harm’s way.”

This roadside zoo is closely tied to Ammon Covino, who has spent time in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and cannot legally hold a federal exhibitor’s license—but has nonetheless appeared in more than 150 videos about the facility’s development posted by Houston Interactive Aquarium. Meanwhile, his brother, Vince Covino, owns the notorious roadside aquarium chain SeaQuest—which the USDA recently slapped with a $4,500 fine over numerous cases in which animals bit members of the public and an incident in which a door crushed a flying squirrel to death.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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