Austin Aquarium was hit with animal abuse and trafficking allegations

There’s a robust scent of animals and aquariums all through the Austin Aquarium as households fill the North Austin mall location, in all probability unaware of the latest outcomes of insufficient care by the U.S. Division of Agriculture and allegations of mistreatment collected by Individuals for the Moral Therapy of Animals.


The aquarium, positioned in a shopping center off the US-183 freeway, is an unique indoor zoo that has inspired guests to the touch practically all of its animals because it opened in 2013. It was designed and constructed by Ammon Covino. , sentenced to 1 12 months and in the future in jail for illegally delivery protected animals to a different aquarium in Florida every week earlier than the Austin opening. He was arrested once more on federal warrant in Austin in 2015 and once more in 2016.

The aquarium claims to have welcomed practically half one million visitors in 2021, and 1000’s of locals have expressed concern by way of social media concerning the firm’s practices over the previous decade.

Throughout a routine USDA checkup in March, the Austin Aquarium was cited for failing to offer satisfactory care when two otters wanted veterinary care. Moreover, PETA introduced that it has filed requests with native, state and federal authorities to research allegations of violating animal safety, employee security, wildlife legal guidelines and to revoke the aquarium’s federal license to exhibit animals. regulated Thursday after sending an undercover worker to work on the facility for 4 months this 12 months.

Company have been inspired to get their palms within the ray and shark tank. (Laura Figi / Austonia)

Austonia contacted Austin Aquarium a number of instances for touch upon PETA’s claims, however acquired no response. We visited the aquarium on Friday afternoon to research a few of PETA’s claims for ourselves.

Contained in the construction

Being a single particular person with no youngsters in tow, I used to be undoubtedly the odd one because the Austin Aquarium was virtually completely households with younger youngsters.

Instantly to the suitable of the doorway is the ring-tailed lemur encounter enclosure, the place guests are inspired to enter with an assistant to pet the animals. Forest the lemur is in an remoted cage the place it hobbles on considered one of its hind legs.

An Austin Aquarium worker, who instructed Austonia he had labored there for 3 months, stated Forest was “born this manner”. PETA claims he was injured and by no means acquired remedy on the San Antonio Aquarium, which is run by the identical house owners.

One other worker appeared visibly reluctant to reply the query of the place the animals got here from, merely saying, “Lots of them have been donated.” Requested the place they have been donated from, the worker stated, “It is simply donations, loads of them, lots of people aren’t in a position to maintain them.”

The otters are present in an enclosure behind the aquarium, which opens onto a big cafeteria, in entrance of dozens of displays asking guests to “contact” the animals, many with out the presence of companions. An worker stated the otters, Scooter and Sadie, have been 15 months previous.

The aquarium additionally invitations guests to the touch and feed its cold-water fish, tropical fish, stingrays, an aviary for parakeets, caiman lizards, iguanas, sloths, turtles, and parrots. There are additionally kangaroos and a capybara on show.

The attraction ends within the massive reward store, which is stuffed with all of the trinkets you’d anticipate and oil diffusers throughout to masks the scent.

The accusations

In an April interview with Michelle Sinnott, PETA’s Affiliate Director for Captive Animal Legislation Enforcement, she instructed the Austonia to comply with proprietor Ammon Covino since pleading responsible to trafficking in wild animals in 2013.

No person managed this iguana, which was open air.

This lizard gave the impression to be lacking a hand.

Austin Aquarium is considered one of a number of aquariums in a nationwide chain led by Ammon and his brother, Vince Covino.

Sinnott additionally adopted the instances of the otters Scooter and Sadie, who based on the USDA have been displaying indicators of “extreme” misery attributable to too many conferences with the general public, and Forest the lemur, who based on PETA suffered a leg harm. ‘San Antonio Aquarium that was not handled.

PETA stated its investigator discovered that 11 workers members have been bitten by animals, 12 guests have been bitten by lemurs or kinkajous over a two-month interval, and noticed many animals die whereas working on the facility.

“Understanding that that is what federal investigators have walked in and noticed at this facility is important data for the general public,” Sinnott stated. “PETA is urging everybody to keep away from the Austin Aquarium. The value of your ticket is what permits these amenities to stay operational. “

Public notion

Reddit threads through the years have revealed the considerations of aquarium prospects, citing a number of instances they’ve seen in particular person the place the animals regarded sad.

20-year-old Fiona, who requested Austonia to maintain her final title non-public, stated she visited her younger cousin final 12 months, spending $ 60 {dollars} on tickets and tokens to feed the animals whereas she was there.

Fiona stated she hasn’t returned since as a result of she felt the animals have been in too small enclosures, they weren’t monitored by the assistants, the aquariums have been soiled and the place smelled of “sewage”.

(Laura Figi / Austonia)

“Quite a lot of areas have been contact and pet sections and a few animals should not be there, like turtles in a really small, open dwelling area, and I used to be similar to the animals have been clearly over-stimulated,” Fiona stated.

Fiona is keen about wildlife, she research pure useful resource administration for some time in school, and stated she encourages folks upset concerning the remedy of animals to contact the Affiliation of Zoos & Aquariums.

“I want I knew what I used to be stepping into,” Fiona stated. “I really feel that many adults do not actually have the braveness to clarify to youngsters that this isn’t an okay state of affairs and the animals are usually not joyful right here.”

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