PETA Calls For Federal Crackdown on Shady Austin Aquarium Evidently Run by Convicted Wildlife Trafficker

For Immediate Release:
April 29, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Austin, Texas

PETA dispatched a letter this morning to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a tip that convicted wildlife trafficker Ammon Covino, who is prohibited from holding a USDA exhibitor’s license because of his criminal history, has apparently continued his involvement in the Austin Aquarium and the San Antonio Aquarium while using his wife’s name for official paperwork—the same kind of actions that got him sent back to prison in 2016 for parole violations related to his prior conviction.

PETA also notes that Covino appears to be heavily involved in the opening of the Houston Interactive Aquarium & Animal Preserve, which has been illegally exhibiting animals to the public—including through hands-on encounters with black and white ruffed lemurs and other endangered wildlife—without a federal exhibitor’s license. PETA is calling on the USDA not only to revoke the permits for the Austin and San Antonio facilities but also to deny any permit applications for the Houston “interactive” aquarium.

“This criminal must not be allowed to keep operating paperwork-fudging, animal-exploiting petting zoos,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director and Counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on the USDA to pull the licenses of every business that he has his hands in.”

The notorious Covino family has faced scrutiny across the country from the public, authorities, visitors, and employees alike, including for the following incidents in Texas:

  • Last March, police found the San Antonio Aquarium operating in violation of the state’s shutdown order and ordered the manager to close the facility immediately. An hour later, police found the aquarium still operating and physically removed visitors and nonessential employees from the building.
  • In 2019, the parents of a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly bitten by a lemur filed a lawsuit against the Austin Aquarium, and the USDA cited the business for failing to consult an attending veterinarian in order to determine the cause of ear problems exhibited by kangaroos prior to treating them.
  • In 2018, the USDA found that half of the lemurs used in public encounters at the San Antonio Aquarium had bitten or scratched members of the public.

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 or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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