miami seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium accused of ‘fear and intimidation’ of employees, hindering USDA investigation: Report 

The report obtained by NBC6 Wednesday appeared to be a departure from other recent USDA reports.

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A newly obtained USDA inspector’s report stemming from January inspections at Miami Seaquarium reveals allegations of willful delays to the investigation, investigation interference, and employee intimidation by management at the facility.

The report says inspectors arrived at the Seaquarium on Jan. 9 around 9-9:30 a.m., but says the physical walkthrough didn’t start until about four and half hours later.

“The facility manager then said they needed to consult with their lawyers as to the inspectors’ nature of inspection and asked for copies of identification,” the inspector wrote. “… In the meantime, inspectors asked to review requested paperwork, but the facility further delayed, indicating that their legal team would have to review them first. USDA had to insist to get immediate access to the records. The physical walkthrough of the facility began 4.5 hours after the inspectors’ arrival.”

On the second day of investigations, the report says APHIS officials were told the owner of the company was requiring staffers to video record the inspections, and said staffers were not to be left alone with inspectors without permission.

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“… staff members confided in inspectors that what they stated on camera was not the whole truth as they were not comfortable to be forthcoming with all the relevant details. The facility CEO stated that if the employees wanted to speak to USDA alone, the employee would have to come to management and inform them beforehand,” the report read.

The report obtained by NBC6 Wednesday appeared to be a departure from other recent USDA reports. While recent reports have consistently made facility and animal welfare observations, the report obtained Wednesday overtly documents concerns with staff interactions and possible impact on the integrity of the investigation.

“Delaying the inspection process and eliciting fear and intimidation towards facility employees interferes with APHIS officials’ abilities to assess a facility’s compliance with the Animal Welfare Act,” the report states.

NBC6 received the following statement in response to our request for an interview.

“Thank you for your inquiry,” wrote the Seaquarium Public Relations team. “In the next couple of days, we will inform the press of our progress. All our animals are well taken care of by our amazing staff.”

A report obtained Tuesday by NBC6 revealed Bud the sea lion, who was euthanized on March 28, was not only critically ill but could not be properly taken care of due to a lack of sufficient resources provided to the facility’s veterinarian.

A question of resources was also brought up in this Tuesday letter from Miami Dade County to the Seaquarium, demanding about $87,000 in unpaid rent.

The Seaquarium, facing eviction with an April 21 deadline, released this April 4 letter promising corrective actions to gain compliance amid a 45-day improvement plan.

The plan included a sweep of the premises and urgent repairs, revamped animal care policies, new checkup and care policies, and updated waste management procedures.

“… We reiterate our commitment not only to rectifying the current issues, but also to preventing any future occurrences,” said Dolphin Company Executive Director, Edwin Gonzalez. “As you know, the facilities at MSQ are more than 50 years old and maintenance issues are bound to occur. Nevertheless, our updated plan includes ongoing monitoring, regular training for our staff, and continuous dialogue with Miami-Dade County to ensure full compliance with all aspects of our lease agreement. We remain dedicated to addressing these concerns comprehensively and sustainably. Our actions demonstrate a firm commitment to upholding the standards under our lease agreement with Miami-Dade County and our community. We are eager to discuss these corrective measures in further detail and collaborate closely with the county to monitor progress. We also look forward to reestablishing our weekly meetings to strengthen our partnership with Miami-Dade County.”

NBC 6 also reached out to Miami Dade County for comment.



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