For Immediate Release:
November 9, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
Grand Forks, N.D. – In his bid for $1 million of taxpayer money to build an aquarium and petting zoo in a former Kmart, SeaQuest CEO Vince Covino has made numerous demonstrably false statements to the Grand Forks City Council—including about his connection to a convicted wildlife trafficker—and so this morning, PETA advised North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of the facts, requesting an investigation into apparent violations of the North Dakota Unlawful Sales or Advertising Practices Act.
Covino’s false and misleading claims include the following:
- Although he states that SeaQuest is the fastest growing aquarium/petting zoo company “in the history of the world,” in part because it has been “successful with compliance with regulators,” SeaQuest has been hit with citations stemming from human injuries and animal deaths, a fine for possession of unpermitted animals, a license suspension, and a lawsuit over unpaid taxes.
- While Covino has attempted to distance himself from his brother, Ammon, a convicted wildlife trafficker, the indictment against Ammon outlines his attempt to acquire sharks for an aquarium that he was building with Vince. Ammon was also arrested and jailed for violating his parole restrictions by working on the construction and animal acquisition for two SeaQuest facilities.
- Vince Covino dismissed an incident in which a child had been bitten by an otter at SeaQuest’s Connecticut location as “nothing to the extent where a Band-Aid wouldn’t fix it immediately,” but otter bites carry a risk of rabies infection, and the bite occurred just two weeks after interactions with otters resumed following a six-month state-mandated rabies quarantine because another child had been bitten.
- Records show that SeaQuest Las Vegas secretly replaced a dead otter with another animal, in violation of its county permit. This unpermitted female otter was placed with a male otter, even though SeaQuest’s permit strictly prohibited breeding, and she became pregnant a month after arriving. Contrary to Covino’s claims, this otter did not arrive at SeaQuest pregnant.
- While Covino claims that SeaQuest has received funding “in every city” and that $1 million “would be the smallest amount of funds” that it’s ever received, only Layton, Utah, seems to have given SeaQuest public funds—and only $40,000.
“SeaQuest leaves a trail of dead animals, injured customers, and controversy wherever it goes,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on the state not to allow Vince Covino to swindle taxpayers out of a million dollars and to pursue all possible action against him, as warranted.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.