Local Bid to Ban Public Handling of Wild Animals Prompts PETA Support

Austin Aquarium’s Practice of Endangering Animals and Visitors in Dangerous ‘Encounters’ Must End, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
June 8, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Austin, Texas

This morning, PETA sent a letter to the Animal Advisory Commission (AAC) urging members to approve a proposal at Monday’s meeting that would recommend banning all public interactions with wild animals at for-profit zoos and aquariums not accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. This would include Austin Aquarium, which has a long history of selling dangerous “encounters” with wild animals that have left numerous visitors injured, including a woman who was apparently left with a bloody gash on her face after an attack by a lemur just last month. If passed, the AAC would formally recommend that the Austin City Council consider and pass the proposal into law.

The proposal comes on the heels of increased public scrutiny of Austin Aquarium following a PETA eyewitness investigation revealing that animals held there routinely bit and injured staff and customers. Despite documenting more than 30 incidents in which people were bitten by lemurs, kinkajous, and an otter, PETA’s investigator was instructed by aquarium staff never to document an attack. To further prevent the bites from being reported to authorities, workers admitted to lying when seeking medical attention for themselves, claiming, for instance, to have been bitten by a stray cat.

“Austin Aquarium’s days of forcing terrified wild animals to interact with humans and then scrambling to cover up the fallout are numbered,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is urging Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission to do the right thing and approve this commonsense proposal—for everyone’s sake.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that after a lemur bit a 10-year-old during an interaction and a kinkajou bit a boy, causing an injury that required medical attention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued two critical citations to the facility that led to an official warning for alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. Photos from the group’s investigation are available here, and broadcast-quality footage is available here. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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