Several animal rights groups concerned with the living conditions of Miami Seaquarium’s famous resident, Lolita, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture challenging the renewal of the marine park’s federal Animal Welfare Act license.
In their court filing, PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and other animal rights groups say that the orca’s living conditions at the Seaquarium are in violation of several Animal Welfare Act compliance issues. According to PETA, Lolita lives in a tank that fails to meet federal minimum requirements. They also point out that Lolita’s tank does not comply with federal guidelines for adequate protection from the elements.
According to Seaquarium officials, the USDA has certified that Lolita’s habitat meets the space requirements for orcas and far exceeds the minimum requirement established by the Animal Welfare Act regulations.
"Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for more than 42 years, and is as active and healthy as ever," said Andrew Hertz, the general manager for Miami Seaquarium. "Lolita will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium."
Miami Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act license is reviewed and issued by the USDA on a yearly basis. In April, the license to hold and view marine mamals at the park was approved. However, PETA says the USDA has the authority to approve some parts of the license and revoke others.
"First and foremost we believe the USDA should revoke the license that allows for Lolita to live in these conditions," said Jeff Kerr, general council for PETA. "And then we believe Seaquarium should do the right thing and release Lolita from 40 years of captivity."