The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited SeaWorld Orlando yet again for housing animals in damaged, unsafe enclosures. Following an inspection, officials noted that an enclosure holding penguins had white material flaking on the ceiling and wall and that two bottles of supplements for pelicans had expired.
This most recent slap on the wrist follows SeaWorld Orlando’s long history of failing to maintain enclosures in good repair, which has affected animals’ health and put staff members in danger. During a June 2023 USDA inspection, “blue material” was noted in the mouth of a female orca named Malia. Facility representatives said it was debris from pool maintenance work.
During that same USDA inspection, a gastric sample taken from a male dolphin named Rascal contained sand, which a facility representative said was from the facility’s sand filter.
In one incident, which was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an employee was reportedly bitten while cleaning Malia’s mouth of debris, resulting in multiple fractures to the employee’s right forearm and wrist, for which she had to undergo surgery.
During a December 2022 USDA inspection, officials cited the facility for allowing chlorine levels to rise too high in several dolphin enclosures, which can cause skin, respiratory, and eye issues. At the time of the inspection, at least one animal was receiving treatment for eye issues, which could have been related to the chlorine levels.
A different December 2022 inspection led to a critical citation over the facility’s failure to separate Rascal from other dolphins in a timely manner after he sustained increasingly serious injuries from them over the course of several days. According to veterinary notes, Rascal’s tankmates had raked about 30% of his body—including his face—until he was bloody and trembling. The facility allowed him to stay with the social group, and three days later, Rascal was seen out of the pool with deep, bloody cuts all over his body. Mere days after that incident, a visitor posted a video showing a dolphin with bloody injuries after he had apparently been attacked by several other dolphins during a show.
In their vast ocean habitat, dolphins maintain dynamic relationships with large social networks, choose their own mates, and swim free, but SeaWorld crams these highly intelligent animals into small tanks, often with incompatible animals, which can cause them to act out of frustration. The company forces these animals to perform, keeps them confined, and then expresses surprise when this abuse leads to aggression. How many more citations will finally be enough to end SeaWorld’s tremendous cruelty?
Say ‘No’ to SeaWorld and All Abusement Parks
Dolphins and other animals imprisoned at SeaWorld’s facilities belong in their ocean home, where they can swim great distances, explore new territories, and live free of exploitation. Never visit SeaWorld or any other facility that uses our fellow animals for entertainment. Tell SeaWorld to do the right thing by sending all the dolphins and whales there to seaside sanctuaries: