For Immediate Release:
June 30, 2023
David Perle 202-483-7382
Miami – Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) elected not to allow new Miami Seaquarium owner The Dolphin Company to exhibit Lolita the orca (aka “Tokitae”) publicly, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has just dismissed a lawsuit filed against the USDA by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Orca Network alleging that the agency’s previous decision to license the Seaquarium was unlawful. However, developments surrounding Lolita’s future are promising.
The USDA had licensed the Seaquarium’s former owner Palace Entertainment to exhibit Lolita, despite the facility keeping her in a tank so small that it fails to meet even the minimum legal size required by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The tank also offers her no meaningful protection from the sun, and in the past, she has been confined to it with incompatible animals, which are additional apparent violations of the AWA. After years of pressure from PETA, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General finally admitted in 2017 that the agency “has allowed [Lolita] to be kept in an enclosure which may not meet all space requirements defined by the agency’s AWA regulations” and “may deny the resident orca sufficient space for adequate freedom of movement.”
After Palace sold the Seaquarium to The Dolphin Company last year, the USDA licensed the rest of the facility for public exhibit but not Lolita and her tank—making PETA’s lawsuit moot and helping to pave the way for The Dolphin Company, Friends of Toki, and philanthropist Jim Irsay’s announced plan to transfer Lolita to a seaside sanctuary in the Pacific Northwest, which was PETA’s ultimate goal.
“The USDA should never have signed off on the Miami Seaquarium confining a 20-foot ocean-going orca to what for her was the equivalent of a kiddie pool,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA looks forward to Lolita’s move to her home waters and urges everyone to steer clear of all roadside zoos and aquariums that exploit animals for entertainment.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—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.