PETA files lawsuit against Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium says Lolita receives excellent veterinary care, would suffer in wild

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. - Activists have filed a lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium in their latest effort to free the attraction's killer whale, Lolita.

"Decades of abuse, miserable confinement, and chronic deprivation have cost Lolita everything that's natural and important to her," said general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. "PETA is taking action now to ensure that the Miami Seaquarium is held accountable for her suffering, and we'll continue to push for her relocation to a seaside sanctuary."

Miami Seaquarium officials said this is the third Lolita-related lawsuit filed by one or more of the plaintiffs, which include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network and activist Howard Garrett.

"Lolita is protected by the Endangered Species Act and deserves to live a life free of harassment, in which she can engage in natural behavior," said Stephen Wells, ALDF's executive director. "We will continue to fight to win her protections under the law."

The previous lawsuits were all dismissed and Miami Seaquarium officials said activists' claims that Lolita is being harmed by remaining in captivity is contradicted by the dismissal of the lawsuits and findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The USDA has repeatedly noted in letters and reports that the care provided for Lolita by Miami Seaquarium complies with the Animal Welfare Act," Miami Seaquarium spokeswoman Maritza Arceo said in a statement Monday. "In fact, in the past several years, the USDA has stated that Lolita receives 'excellent veterinary care;' that she has the 'best appearing teeth' of a 'killer whale this age, either wild or domestic;' that her 'skin is smooth and glistening and her eyes are bright;' that Lolita is a 'healthy animal' and that Miami Seaquarium provides (a) 'very positive enrichment for Lolita.'"

PETA contradicts the attraction's statements, claiming a former caretaker said that Lolita's tank offers her no protection from the sun which has caused her skin to crack and bleed.

The organization also said that the tank only allows the orca to swim just a few yards of the 100 miles a day she could swim in the wild.

Lolita has called the Miami Seaquarium home for the past 45 years.

Arceo said transferring Lolita into a Washington state sea pen, as demanded by animal activists, would be "cruel and traumatic" for the killer whale.

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