Controversial Florida theme park fights state-ordered closure, update given

Photo credit: Isabelle Puaut via Flickr

The most controversial theme park in Florida isn't going down without a fight.

Controversies at theme parks are not uncommon. Over the years, we've seen Walt Disney World Resort publicly feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on numerous occasions (not least due to his opposition to the governor's “Don't Say Gay” bill in 2021). ). SeaWorld is defending itself against allegations of animal abuse because the company uses captured marine mammals for entertainment purposes.

Tokitae appears as Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium
Photo credit: Leonardo DaSilva via Flickr

Related: Animal update – DeSantis announces release of another animal from Florida theme park as controversy continues

However, in 2024, a theme park in Florida is causing controversy. After years of troubling inspection reports, the Miami Seaquarium — a marine theme park that first opened in 1955 on the island of Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay — was closed earlier this year by Miami-Dade County, which accused it of violating its park's regulations have rent.

The terms in question referred to the duty of care towards the animal residents. The extensive USDA reports have revealed several incriminating details about the park, including a dolphin found with a nail stuck in its neck, a sea lion living in pain after critical eye surgery was repeatedly postponed, and bacteria-infested conditions Tank water.

Seals at the Miami SeaquariumSeals at the Miami Seaquarium
Photo credit: Miami Seaquarium

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava ordered the park to vacate the site (for which it has signed a lease through 2044) by April 21 because of this “long and troubling history of violations.” But almost a month later, the Miami Seaquarium is still in operation.

Its owner, The Dolphin Company, has also filed a federal lawsuit against Miami-Dade County. Its CEO, Eduardo Albor, released a statement arguing that closing the park would endanger its animal residents.

Sea lion jumps through hoops at Florida theme park Miami SeaquariumSea lion jumps through hoops at Florida theme park Miami Seaquarium
Photo credit: Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr

“Filing this lawsuit against Miami-Dade County is a step we take with a heavy heart but with a clear mind, driven by our duty to protect our heritage and ensure we can continue to have a positive impact on marine conservation,” said Albor.

“We firmly believe that with fair treatment and support from Miami-Dade County, we can overcome the current challenges and emerge stronger for the benefit of our community, our employees and the animals we strive to protect as much as we do.” Do You in all our parks.”

This week, the park provided another update in its fight against permanent closure. According to Islander News, Edwin Gonzalez – Executive Director USA of The Dolphin Company – has sent a letter to Miami-Dade County asserting that it is now in compliance with all areas of concern previously addressed in USDA inspection reports.

Tokita killer whale and trainer at the Miami SeaquariumTokita killer whale and trainer at the Miami Seaquarium
Photo credit: Isabelle Puaut via Flickr

The most recent inspection on April 30 reportedly found “no non-conforming items, confirming that the Seaquarium is in compliance with strict federal regulations regarding animal welfare and safety.”

The letter, which was accompanied by a copy of the inspection report, continued: “We are pleased that no deficient points were identified during the inspection, which confirms our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of animal care and facility management.” This Success reflects the hard work and dedication of our entire team at Miami Seaquarium.”

Miami-Dade County has yet to publicly respond to the Florida theme park. The company recently said it is willing to take the Miami Seaquarium's more than 5,000 animals – including dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins and sharks – into its care and find alternative homes, with options including SeaWorld Orlando, Zoo Tampa and Zoo Miami.

Dolphins perform at the Florida theme park Miami SeaquariumDolphins perform at the Florida theme park Miami Seaquarium
Photo credit: Leonardo Dasilva via Flickr

Related: One-Year Acquisition – Disney World Announces Closing Date for Site Handover to President

The Dolphin Company and Miami-Dade County previously had a friendly relationship after taking over the troubled park in 2022.

However, the Miami Herald claims that relationship soured following the death of resident killer whale Lolita (also called Tokitae), who died in their tank in August 2023 – just months after the Miami Seaquarium vowed to return them to their home waters liberate Salish Sea.

The Miami Seaquarium has been accused of using “fear and intimidation” to discourage employees from sharing information during inspections. Additionally, the company owes the county over $87,000 in unpaid rent and has reportedly fallen behind on bills from several local vendors.

What do you think about the Miami Seaquarium? Let us know in the comments!

Anna Harden

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