PETA files new animal abuse charges against Sea World

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SAN DIEGO -- A SeaWorld San Diego trainer and two veterinarians said Tuesday they were offended by repeated accusations of animal abuse made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA announced that a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after a veterinarian allegedly found scars and lesions on whales and dolphins at the theme park on Mission Bay.

The organization has filed at least two other complaints against the marine theme park this year. In one, the organization asked the department to look into the issue of orca whales getting sunburned while in SeaWorld's care. In the other, PETA asked that the interactions of park guests and animals be looked into after a girl was allegedly bitten by a dolphin at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Lindy Donahue, a trainer at SeaWorld San Diego's Dolphin Point exhibit, said the 1,500 employees who care for animals at the park are “extremely passionate'' about the health and well-being of their animals.

“Like my colleagues, I have poured my heart into my career with these animals,'' Donahue said at a news conference. “I am most joyful when I'm spending one-on-one time with them, and when I get the honor to share them with our guests.''

She said she believes her line of work inspires people to make “small changes'' in their lives that will benefit animals.

One of the veterinarians, Todd Schmitt, said the park is accredited every five years by two organizations that oversee theme parks and is subject to two or three unannounced inspections per year by the USDA.

“We are the true animal advocates,'' Schmitt said. “When there's a stranded animal on the beach or a whale entangled by fish line, the public doesn't call PETA. They call SeaWorld because they know we have the resources to take care of that animal and provide the best care possible.''

Schmitt and fellow veterinarian Hendrik Nollens questioned the experience of the PETA veterinarian who made the latest claims. They said marks on marine mammals are common occurrences and not a sign of abuse.

SeaWorld has previously responded to PETA allegations by issuing a news release. Nollens said they called the news conference because they no longer want to sit back and take the repeated allegations.

Though PETA has blasted SeaWorld parks for years for using captive animals to entertain humans, the organization has ramped up its efforts against the marine theme park since the release of “Blackfish.''

The documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, explores the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando. Brancheau was drowned by an orca. Since her death, trainers have not been allowed in the water with orcas during the park's famed Shamu shows.

In addition to filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PETA has launched a media campaign against SeaWorld which, among other things, has included large anti-SeaWorld billboards being posted for tourists to see at Lindbergh Field.

The PETA veterinarian, Heather Rally, contends that she found scars and lesions on dolphins, orcas and other animals; witnessed unprotected and unsupervised contact between visitors and aggressive animals; and observed listless animals engaging in abnormal, repetitive behavior likely caused by stress. Those are apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, according to the organization.

“This veterinary report confirms that SeaWorld is causing animals to suffer both physically and psychologically in hopelessly inadequate tanks,'' said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is asking families to stay far away from SeaWorld, where deprived orcas can do nothing but swim in endless circles, stressed dolphins take their aggression out on one another, and a walrus in solitary confinement is reduced to regurgitating his food out of boredom."

Nollens said walruses suck clams out of mud when they feed, and they're not regurgitating but merely ridding their mouths of debris.

15 comments

    • Kathleen

      A better question… What are u going to do when you whom I’m guessing has something to do with this money making dynasty or trainers at these sea world affiliated organization are randomly attacked because YOU failed to conduct yourself by the book and the animals took full advantage of this killing the individual or if your lucky only maiming you or permanently disabling you because your ignorance is bliss. The lives of trainers involved in these accidents and deaths didn’t deserve what they got for the embarrassing amount they received financially for pay. Thanks to saviours like PETA they’re concern clearly isn’t just for the animal. It’s for idiots like yourself who hopefully won’t be made to look neglectful and insubordinate like Dawn Brancheau did when she died because a KILLER WHALE took notice and latched on to the ponytail that sea world blamed along with Dawn for the no doubt seemingly long and torturous death of a woman who may have asked the same question you did once herself. GET WITH THE PROGRAM GENIUS AND LEARN FROM THE PONYTAIL MISTAKES IF OTHERS AND THE DEATH SEAWORLD CLAIMS THIS CAUSED. I can say without a doubt that your question tells me your not a worthy individual but its good to know that when an orca has eaten your extremities for lunch you won’t be able to afford lunch yourself because employers prefer able bodied before disabled employees sadly. AND if your mom was out enjoying a SEAWORLD show lunch would be on hold because without extremities …. You can hold a fork to be able to eat lunch without your mommy ya bum.

  • Paul

    Why doesn’t PETA do something useful, like go to Africa and help with the Ebola outbreak? That would be a worthwhile pursuit!

    • Rhonda

      Your comment is so ignorant its not even worthy of a reply, but I’m going to anyway. We are not sick people, we are people who love animals and value them above $$$. We are not crazy, we have jobs and families and care about mankind. You should be more concerned about the sea life that is being tortured by greed.

      • justin

        Peta has killed thousands of animals rather than find them a home. Peta has been caught throwing away dead animals in the dumpster behind a store. Do your research and know your facts. Peta is an extremists group who spends all their money paying celebrities to advertise their agenda. They spend no money saving animals.

  • Paul

    SeaWorld and other animal parks do a lot of research to help preserve the lives of the animals that they deal with. PETA protesting SeaWorld and other parks, would be like the ACLU protesting hospitals for treating people in order to prolong their lives. OOPS! Don’t give them any original ideas!
    Somebody needs to find them a REAL job.

    • gabrielle

      literally anyone can go into seaworld and see that what they’re doing is unacceptable, veterinarian or not

  • Dave

    Peta -…… give it up… you are a waste of time and space… holding on and keep dropping “Blackfish” into the frame… Your just sad…. get over it, it was a poor, no-fact, nothing but a money maker for them… grow up now…

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