LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Animal welfare advocates and former SeaQuest employees have repeatedly accused the aquarium at the Boulevard Mall of exploiting animals for profit.
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13 Investigates has reported extensively on SeaQuest, revealing animal welfare violations, illegal breeding and cover-ups of animal deaths.
The USDA just released a settlement agreement detailing three violations of the Animal Welfare Act at SeaQuest involving multiple locations and eight incidents across the country.
The settlement agreement details one incident in Las Vegas where an otter was hurt in 2021 when an enclosure door fell on it, smashing its right foot.
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USDA records show the otter suffered one dislocated toe, another broken toe and a serious cut on its foot pad.
SeaQuest was fined $4,500 total for that and the other listed violations at other SeaQuest locations.
“Now, while that fine is long overdue, it is woefully inadequate for a facility where at least 44 animals have died prematurely and dozens of customers have been injured,” said Michelle Sinnott, director and counsel for the Captive Animal Law Enforcement division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
At least five incidents were reported at the SeaQuest location in our neighboring state of Utah when guests and employees were interacting with animals.
The violations include:
- A guest bitten by an otter while feeding the animal
- Multiple incidents involving a South American coati biting and scratching both employees and guests
- A kinkajou biting and puncturing a guest’s finger
- And an Asian small-clawed otter biting a guest who was handing the animal a toy
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In New Jersey, a flying squirrel died from injuries after an employee closed a door on the animal.
PETA advocates against forcing wild animals to interact with the public at attractions like SeaQuest.
The organization calls the $4,500 fine for all the violations a slap on the wrist.
“The citations in this penalty are only a handful of over 50 citations of the federal Animal Welfare Act that SeaQuest has racked up in just a couple of years,” said Sinnott. “If the USDA had issued SeaQuest the maximum penalty for the citations identified in the penalty document–the fine could have been over $100,000.”
SeaQuest sent the following statement:
“Only the December 7th, 2021, otter incident was local to Las Vegas. The Vegas team immediately self-reported the incident to regulatory agencies, and the otter exhibit was updated per USDA regulations. There have been no subsequent issues.”
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