For Immediate Release:
March 24, 2015
Shakira Croce 202-483-7382
PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and Orca Network’s have an update on the appeal of the dismissal of their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for automatically renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s license to exhibit the orca Lolita.
The groups’ appeal will be heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami this morning, where the judges will hear arguments that the USDA’s renewal of the Seaquarium’s license—despite knowing that the facility is perpetually in blatant violation of at least three regulations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—was illegal and the license must be voided. Lolita, the lone orca at the Seaquarium, is held in the smallest orca tank in North America—one that’s well below the minimum size required by the AWA—and she has no orca companion or shelter from the sun and other weather conditions.
The appeal is of particular note because of a new development for Lolita: As a result of a petition by the groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently granted Lolita the same status under the Endangered Species Act as the rest of her family in the wild, meaning that the USDA is allowing the Miami Seaquarium to abuse a member of an endangered species.
“When the court threw out PETA’s lawsuit, it gave the authorities carte blanche to rubber-stamp license renewals even if they know that applicants are violating federal law,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. “PETA is pushing for this lonely orca, a member of an endangered species, to have her day in court so that someday soon, she can be reunited with her family in the wild.”
“Lolita is entitled to legal protection under the Animal Welfare Act, and yet the USDA repeatedly renews the license of the theme park that confines her in conditions that violate federal laws,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “ALDF is asking the courts to give Lolita the protection she is due under the law and hold the Miami Seaquarium accountable.”
For more information, please visit PETA.org.