Last week, the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale announced that it is partnering with a company called SeaQuest to open an aquarium at the shopping mall in late 2018. According to a press release, the new aquarium will feature “hands-on encounters” with sharks, stingrays, capybara, otters, tortoises, and exotic birds. (photo: an animal rights protest outside SeaQuest’s aquarium in Las Vegas in April 2017)
SeaQuest CEO Vince Covino, and his brother Ammon, have a long history of legal problems and controversies surrounding animal care.
In April 2017 a former employee at SeaQuest Las Vegas came forward with disturbing reports about animals dying from neglect and mistreatment. The employee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that at least 300 animals, including eels, stingrays and octopuses, died before the aquarium even opened. An aquarium operated by the brothers in Portland, Oregon also faced accusations of poor animal care and large numbers of animal deaths (the Portland Aquarium closed in 2016).
In early 2017, Vince Corvino was fined $5,000 by the State of Idaho for failing to disclose his history of securities industry violations to potential investors in new SeaQuest aquariums (Covino’s registration as a securities broker-dealer was suspended in 2011).
In December 2013, Ammon Covino was sentenced to one year in federal prison for conspiring to purchase protected species of rays and sharks illegally captured in the Florida Keys for display at an aquarium operated by the Covino brothers. Ammon Covino was sent back to prison in 2015 for violating the terms of his release after he was found to be involved in the opening of the SeaQuest aquariums in Nevada and Utah.
The majority of saltwater fish and invertebrates found in aquariums are captured in the wild because they are difficult to breed in captivity. The collection of large numbers of fish and other animals for the aquarium trade is harmful to the reef ecosystem.
The touch tanks and other ‘hands-on encounters’ planned for SeaQuest Fort Lauderdale put animals and people at risk. Touch tanks in which animals are unable to escape constant harassment from people can severly stress the animals. Bacteria introduced to touch tank water by human hands can be harmful to animals. (Children have also developed bacterial infections after handling animals in touch tanks.)
You Can Help
The Galleria mall is steps away from a state park and the Atlantic Ocean, and a short drive from the Everglades. Instead of exploiting captive animals for profit, the Galleria mall should be celebrating the unique natural areas in its own backyard, where animals can be observed in their natural habitats. Please contact the Galleria and urge them to reconsider the addition of an aquarium at the mall:
This November, voters in Florida will have an historic opportunity to help thousands of greyhounds by voting Yes on Amendment 13! The amendment would phase out dog racing in Florida by 2020.
The abuse and neglect of greyhounds is common at dog tracks in Florida. Racing greyhounds live in inhumane conditions. On average, a greyhound dies at a Florida racetrack every three days! Many more are injured.
There are only 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country. 11 of them are in Florida. To win this important campaign, we need to educate millions of voters about the cruelty of greyhound racing. Visit www.ProtectDogs.com to learn more about Amendment 13 and how you can help to spread the word.
Are you ready to vote in Florida? Use this link to register to vote, check your voter status, or to make changes to your existing registration: https://registertovoteflorida.gov
On Sunday, November 19 a large crowd gathered outside the roadside zoo Monkey Jungle in Miami to demand a better life for the animals there.
For 28 years, “King” the gorilla has lived a cruel, solitary existence at Monkey Jungle. “Mei,” the only orangutan at Monkey Jungle, is confined to a barren, concrete enclosure when on exhibit (her off-exhibit cage is even worse). In a story that made headlines in early November, four former employees revealed that monkeys and birds at Monkey Jungle are also suffering from neglect and abuse. Photos taken by a former employee show filthy living conditions for the animals at Monkey Jungle (click here and here to read the Miami Herald’s reporting about the former employees allegations).
It is clear that Monkey Jungle is unable to provide the care that animals deserve.
In 1997, a campaign was launched to persuade Monkey Jungle to send King to Zoo Atlanta, where he could be with other gorillas. Zoo Atlanta has had success in rehabilitating previously solitary gorillas and transitioning them into a gorilla family. But despite Zoo Atlanta’s invitation and pleas from noted primatologist Jane Goodall, TV personality Bob Barker, and thousands of Florida residents, Monkey Jungle has refused. Gorillas and other apes are intelligent animals with complex social and emotional lives. Gorillas are best-off when they are in social situations. King needs companions and this continued solitary confinement is cruel and psychologically damaging. Read our previous post about King here.
You Can Help
You can help by asking Monkey Jungle to transfer King and Mei, at the very least, to a reputable sanctuary or zoo where they could receive proper care and live out the remainder of their lives with companionship and dignity. Write to:
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an immediate investigation of Monkey Jungle. ARFF believes that the conditions depicted in the photos violates federal Animal Welfare Act regulations. Please contact the USDA and ask that they investigate Monkey Jungle and ensure that it provides animals with adequate veterinary care, and that the animals there are housed in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act. Urge the USDA to hold Monkey Jungle fully accountable for any violations discovered during its investigation.
United States Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
On hundreds of occasions over many years, Philip Lloyd and his company BioChemed Services exported blood products of monkeys* and other animals to biotech companies around the world, but fraudulently labeled the packages as containing human blood to avoid the attention of government inspectors. His actions made him a lot of money, but in the words of prosecutors, posed “a significant public health threat” and “risked the safety of the world’s supply of human blood” (monkeys can carry viruses and diseases that can be transmitted to humans).
In November 2016, Lloyd pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to mislabel wildlife products intended for foreign commerce.” Last week, in U.S. district court in Virginia, he was sentenced to 4 months in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Prior to sentencing, the judge received a letter seeking leniency for Lloyd from Michael Disbrow, who described Lloyd as a friend. Disbrow is senior director of “Nonhuman Primate Operations” for PreLabs, a company that operates a monkey quarantine/research facility in Hendry County. Disbrow and Lloyd are also partners in a Florida corporation called Flava Partners, LLC.
It is shocking that an executive of a research organization in Florida apparently has no qualms about being business partners with an individual who so flagrantly broke laws designed to protect human health.
*BioChemed has purchased blood from Florida’s Primate Products and other corporations that import and breed monkeys for use in research and testing
When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took its elephants off the road in May 2016, animal advocates cheered. Other Florida-based circuses saw the move as a marketing opportunity.
The Garden Bros. Circus advertised its 2016 tour as, “Last chance to see elephants live!” Apparently, the gimmick worked because they are using the tagline again this year.
On ticket coupons, Circus Pages teases, “May be the last chance to see performing elephants!”
Another Florida circus, the Stardust Circus, is using a similar line this year in its advertisements, “Come see one of the last performing circus elephants.”
We don’t believe any of these circuses will stop elephant acts, unless they have to. The end of elephants in the circus will come about due to the passage of local ordinances and state laws restricting the use of wild animals in the circus, and because the public– increasingly aware of the suffering of animals in traveling circuses– refuses to purchase tickets to circuses featuring animal acts.
In May 2016, the Hernando County Commission approved a strong anti-tethering ordinance that prohibits the unsupervised, unattended outdoor chaining of dogs. Last week the ordinance helped to save the lives of several dogs. On January 4, an animal control officer spotted dogs, including the malnourished dog in the above photo, tied to a tree at a home in Garden Grove, in violation of the county ordinance. The officer investigated and discovered numerous dogs suffering without food or water or proper shelter. In total, 11 dogs were seized and transported to Hernando County Animal Services for medical care. Three people living at the home were arrested and charged with animal cruelty.
A growing number of cities and counties in Florida have enacted ordinances banning or restricting the cruel tethering/chaining of dogs, including Broward, Collier, Escambia, Hillsborough, Manatee, Marion, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, St. Lucie, Sarasota and Seminole Counties.
You Can Help
If your city or county does not have an ordinance addressing the cruel chaining of dogs, contact your local elected officials and urge them to consider adding this important protection for dogs. Contact ARFF for help!