Exhibitor's License Cannot Be Issued for Facility Violating Animal Welfare Regulations, Plaintiffs Contend
For Immediate Release:
May 18, 2016
David Perle 202-483-7382
Miami – This morning, PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and a concerned individual filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the agency’s decision to license Miami Seaquarium as an additional “site” under the license of Palace Entertainment, the company that bought and absorbed the marine park in 2014. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and its regulations, exhibitors’ licenses do not transfer upon change of ownership, and a new license can be issued only to a facility that demonstrates compliance with USDA regulations. Yet Seaquarium keeps a lone orca, Lolita, in a tank so small that it fails to meet even the minimum legal size requirement and also offers the orca no protection from the burning sun, both violations of the AWA.
“Miami Seaquarium’s new owner simply does not qualify for a permit for this facility, when the orca confined there is suffering in an illegally small concrete pit,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “We are asking the court to strip this deplorable facility of its wrongfully obtained license and put Lolita on the path to freedom after more than 45 years of captivity and exploitation.”
This lawsuit comes in addition to another that is pending by the plaintiffs, who contend that Seaquarium’s imprisonment of Lolita violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which prohibits harming or harassing protected animals. Lolita was granted protection under the ESA last year thanks to the plaintiffs’ successful petition.
The plaintiffs are pushing for Lolita to be retired to a seaside sanctuary that’s waiting for her in her home waters off Washington state’s San Juan Islands, where the orca believed to be her mother still thrives at more than 80 years old.