PETA to Area Schools: Steer Clear of the Austin Aquarium

Owner’s Arrest History, Hundreds of Reported Animal Deaths Prompt Appeal

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Austin, Texas

Today, PETA’s humane-education division, TeachKind, sent an urgent letter to the principals of more than 75 Austin-area schools urging them to adopt a policy against field trips to the Austin Aquarium. The aquarium is owned by brothers Ammon and Vince Covino, who also own the Portland Aquarium in Oregon, and Ammon Covino is also a cofounder of the Idaho Aquarium in Boise.

Just last month, a federal court sentenced Ammon Covino to a year and a day in prison for conspiring to buy illegally captured spotted rays and lemon sharks for the Boise facility in violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits illegal trafficking in wildlife.

“The Covino brothers are poster children for exactly how not to treat animals,” says PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg. “Animals have suffered greatly and died painfully at aquariums that the Covinos are behind, so they’re not places to take children for show and tell.”

The Covinos have an abysmal history of animal care. In August, PETA asked the executive director of the Oregon Humane Society to seek criminal charges against the brothers after it was reported that more than 200 marine animals died at the unaccredited Portland facility from starvation and other preventable causes between February 18 and May 16 alone. The humane society’s investigation is ongoing.

The Austin Aquarium encourages visitors to handle animals trapped in “touch tanks”—something that’s potentially dangerous for animals and people. By nature, stingrays and sharks shun human contact, yet in touch tanks they have no chance to escape the constant onslaught of groping hands. The mortality rate for animals in these types of invasive tanks is staggeringly high. Moreover, the Austin Aquarium exhibited a baby kinkajou in apparent violation of the Animal Welfare Act, a matter that is still reportedly being investigated by the federal government.

TeachKind’s letter to the Austin schools is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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