PETA calls on authorities to investigate Austin Aquarium

Photo: Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons

Alleging animal cruelty, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed requests with local, state and federal authorities to investigate a popular Austin attraction.

Driving the news: PETA claims in its filings that the Austin Aquarium abused animals and endangered employees.

  • The basis of the claims, which were obtained by Axios, involve an “eyewitness” who was employed at the aquarium from March to mid-July of this year.

Austin’s North Attraction features cold water and tropical fish, plus a rainforest vivarium and parakeet aviary.

  • Guests are encouraged to hand-feed the sharks, stingrays, and birds. “Get up close to our kangaroos and lemurs, or pet one of our caiman lizards,” according to the aquarium’s website.

The context: The animal rights group has already filed investigation requests for other aquariums operated by the family that runs the Austin Aquarium.

  • Last year, he asked federal authorities to revoke the San Antonio Aquarium’s license, according to the San Antonio Current.
  • To note : The San Antonio facility is still operational.
  • PETA also devotes part of its website to detailing what it claims is abuse at the Austin facility.

What they say : A request for investigation from the animal rights group to the USDA’s Director of Animal Welfare Operations alleges that “ring-tailed lemurs have been denied adequate veterinary care.”

  • Another request for investigation from the City of Austin Animal Services Officer indicates that the former aquarium employee “has learned that at least 12 guests have been bitten by lemurs and a kinkajou since the April 15”.
  • “During his employment at the facility, the eyewitness also documented over 30 instances of lemurs, kinkajous, a capybara, and otters biting guests and employees,” the request reads.
  • “Employees have openly discussed a number of animal attacks on staff that required emergency room visits, where employees deliberately lied to medical professionals about the cause of the injuries, at least in part to avoid to generate a report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare”, the claims request.

Other PETA requests for investigation were made Tuesday with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The other side: Aquarium officials did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

Rollback: In 2013, Ammon Covino, who designed and built the Austin Aquarium, was sentenced in Florida to a year and a day in prison for illegally shipping protected animals to another aquarium.

And after: “We take all complaints about animal welfare seriously and plan to investigate this,” a USDA spokesperson told Axios.

  • Other municipal, state and federal officials did not immediately respond to Axios’ requests for comment on Wednesday.

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