A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling against animal rights groups that want a captive killer whale removed from Miami Seaquarium.
The case concerns the orca Lolita that has lived at the Seaquarium since 1970. Last year, a Miami federal judge dismissed the groups' lawsuit alleging that the tank holding Lolita violates USDA standards under the Animal Welfare Act.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week said that while the judges "are sensitive to the plight of Lolita and other animals exhibited across the country," they found that the USDA's administrative process to renew Seaquarium's license to display Lolita "balances the competing demands of due process and animal welfare."
The groups had argued that the USDA policy amounted to a "rubber-stamping" of license renewals and undermined the law.
Lolita was between 4 and 6 years old when the whale was legally captured in 1970. When the federal government protected Puget Sound orcas as an endangered species in 2005, it excluded captive animals. PETA and others groups petitioned in 2013 for Lolita to be included, saying the orca belongs in the wild.