Austin Aquarium beneath scrutiny after reported animal assaults on guests, employees

A petition to close down the Austin Aquarium began by a UT graduate garnered over 55,000 signatures, one in all a number of calls to take motion following studies of animals harming guests and employees.

Final October, the U.S. Division of Agriculture formally warned the Austin Aquarium for not facilitating satisfactory animal and customer security after a number of incidents the place guests have been bitten or scratched by animals resembling lemurs or kinkajous. Simply final month, a customer reported being attacked and bitten on the face by a lemur. 

Petition creator Madhavi Subramaniam stated that in an undercover PETA investigation of the Austin Aquarium carried out final yr, PETA found many bites, scratches and assaults go unreported. 

In line with the investigation, a number of of the employees bitten “reportedly lied to hospital employees about the kind of animal that bit them when searching for therapy” to keep away from formally reporting the assaults. The undercover investigator was instructed “by no means to doc an assault within the website’s animal care data,” following as much as 12 assaults that occurred whereas they have been investigating. 

The investigation additionally discovered the aquarium is legally owned by a girl named Crysty Covino however operated primarily by her husband, Ammon Covino. In 2013, Ammon Covino was convicted and sentenced in federal court docket for illegally trafficking wildlife, phrases he later violated. The investigation states Ammon Covino’s unofficial operation of the aquarium could also be an “try to bypass the regulation” as he can’t legally maintain a USDA license. 

Subramaniam stated she began the petition after witnessing the aquarium’s situations firsthand. She stated it was uncommon for an animal care facility to be in a strip mall, and he or she had a “unhealthy feeling” after seeing the mammals compelled to sit down on concrete 24/7.

“To me, it was clear that folks do need this aquarium to close down, not only for the truth that children who go there are commonly harmed, however for the truth that animals who’re compelled to remain there are being commonly abused,” Subramaniam stated. “After I began the petition, I actually didn’t count on to get this many signatures. I began it simply to get a gauge of what individuals thought, however while you begin it and get 50,000 plus signatures, you understand it is a hated aquarium.” 

After contemplating whether or not to suggest an ordinance to the Austin Metropolis Council that might ban for-profit amenities unaccredited by the Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums, just like the Austin Aquarium, the Austin Animal Advisory Fee voted to kind a working group that might additional outline the ordinance’s language to extend its probability of passing. 

The Austin Aquarium declined to remark.