Judge’s Refusal to Review Seaquarium’s Violations of Law Prompts Court Appeal
Posted on July 1, 2014
PETA, ALDF Determined to Seek Justice for Suffering Orca Lolita
For immediate release
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Jared Goodman, Esq., PETA Foundation
Miami — PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Orca Network, and concerned individuals filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Lolita, the solitary orca confined to a tiny concrete tank at Miami Seaquarium, but the judge has dismissed it. That’s why today, the plaintiffs filed an appeal of the dismissal of the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for automatically renewing Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license to exhibit Lolita—despite knowing that Seaquarium is perpetually in blatant violation of at least three AWA regulations. The plaintiffs seek to void Seaquarium’s license and put an end to this absurd practice, which could end Seaquarium’s inhumane treatment of Lolita.
Lolita is held in the smallest orca tank in North America—it’s so small that it fails to meet the minimum size required by the AWA. She also has no orca companion or shelter from the sun and other weather conditions—both violations of the AWA. But the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that because Congress didn’t directly address license renewals when adopting the AWA, the USDA is allowed to rubber-stamp license-renewal applications. Under this ruling, the agency can do so even if it knows that the applicant is violating the AWA and that the applicant’s certification of compliance with the AWA is false.
“The court has practically endorsed the USDA’s dereliction of duty, and Lolita is paying the price by being forced to swim in endless circles—alone—inside her concrete prison,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr.
Adds ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells, “By failing to administer the law, the USDA sentences Lolita to another year of solitary confinement each time it renews Miami Seaquarium’s license. We will continue to fight to win her the protections she is entitled to under the law.”
The groups would like to see Lolita released into a seaside sanctuary in her home waters and, if possible, back into her family pod, from which she was forcibly taken more than 40 years ago.