U.S. District Court

Animal Activists File Lawsuit Against Miami Seaquarium

Animal activists filed another lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium Monday.

The lawsuit is an attempt to "Free Lolita," the killer whale which the seaquarium has housed since 1970.

The latest lawsuit has been launched by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Orca Network and Orca Network Director Howard Garrett.

"Decades of abuse, miserable confinement, and chronic deprivation have cost Lolita everything that's natural and important to her," said general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. "PETA is taking action now to ensure that the Miami Seaquarium is held accountable for her suffering, and we'll continue to push for her relocation to a seaside sanctuary."

This is the third Lolita-related lawsuit by one or more of these plaintiffs.

A 2011 lawsuit, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, was dismissed by the U.S. District Court in 2012. A 2012 lawsuit, alleging violations of the Animal Welfare Act, was dismissed by another U.S. District Court in 2014, and the dismissal was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in June of 2015.

"Lolita is protected by the Endangered Species Act and deserves to live a life free of harassment, in which she can engage in natural behavior," said Stephen Wells, ALDF's executive director. "We will continue to fight to win her protections under the law."

PETA believes Lolita has been unable to swim more than a few yards of the 100 miles a day she might cover in the wild. They also believe her tank offers no protection from the sun.

The Miami Seaquarium released a statement saying, in part: "Lolita remains healthy and thriving after 45 years of residency at Miami Seaquarium. Nonetheless, PETA has argued (among other things) that Lolita is being 'harassed' and 'harmed' by remaining at her Miami Seaquarium home, and that Miami Seaquarium is not in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act or the Endangered Species Act."

The seaquarium went on to say those allegations have been contradicted by the USDA, which administers the Animal Welfare Act, and has noted in letters and reports the care provided for Lolita by Miami Seaquarium complies with the Animal Welfare Act.

The Miami Seaquarium disagrees with and denies the allegations in PETA's new lawsuit.

"Lolita is loved and exceptionally well cared for at Miami Seaquarium, and we believe that her removal from the only home she has ever known, into a sea pen in Washington state (the end-goal of the activists), would be cruel and traumatic," the seaquarium continued in the statement.

The seaquarium additionally said it will continue to defend against these lawsuits, and will protect the best interest of Lolita.

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