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Where’s the proof?

December 29, 2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the governing agency which oversees marine mammals in captivity. Their duty is to ensure that marine parks are upholding the laws of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Section 3.104 of the AWA states that the minimum horizontal dimension of a killer whale tank must be at least 48 feet in length in a STRAIGHT line of travel.  APHIS though  neglects to enforce Section 3.104 of the AWA in regards to the Miami Seaquarium’s killer whale tank that houses Lolita.  For over 40 years, Lolita has lived in this tank.


Lolita is approximately 21 feet long. Her tank is divided into two parts, the main pool and medical pool with a cement trainer’s platform separating the two pools that goes all the way to the bottom of the tank. In order for her tank to be 48 feet in length, more than 2 of Lolita’s body length would have to line up horizontally in the main pool. A quick glance at Lolita’s tank, in my opinion, is proof enough that her tank is NOT 48 feet in length, therefore in violation of the AWA.

As a concerned citizen, I wrote a letter to APHIS regarding my concerns that Lolita’s tank was not 48 feet in length. The response I received was quite disturbing. I was told Lolita’s tank is actually 60 x 80 feet.

Chester Gipson, Deputy Administer of Animal Care for APHIS wrote to me stating: “While many people have expressed concern about the size of Lolita’s pool, our measurements indicate that it meets the AWA space requirements for marine mammals. The figures specifying the minimum space requirements are taken from section 3.104 ofthe AWA regulations. The minimum horizontal dimension (MHD) requirement is 48 feet; the actual MHD measurement is 80 feet in one direction and 60 feet in the other. We did NOT include the medical pool area in our MHD measurements of the main pool. Therefore, use of the medical pool area does not diminish the size of the main pool.”


If you include the measurements of the main pool, the medical pool, along with the 10 foot wide concrete trainer’s platform, then APHIS’s measurements of 60 feet are correct. Yet APHIS claims the main pool is 60 feet by 80 feet wide, NOT including the medical pool.  Google Earth’s measurements match APHIS’s claim that one width of Lolita’s tank is 80 feet, but it also shows Lolita’s tank is BELOW the minimum standards of the AWA going the opposite direction.




Google Earth makes no claims that their measurements are accurate, yet it is quite obvious to the naked eye that Lolita’s tank is NOT 60 feet wide as APHIS claims it is. There is absolutely no way almost 3 times Lolita’s body length can line up from the edge of the main pool to the trainer’s platform.

Why is APHIS protecting the Miami Seaquarium when they are being paid to protect the animals housed there? Where is their proof that Lolita’s tank is 60 feet wide? We, as tax payers, are entitled to see proof of APHIS’s measurements that show Lolita’s tank is “legal”. To date, APHIS has failed to provide any type of evidence disputing the claims that Lolita’s tank is illegally sized according to the AWA.

APHIS’s only proof to me and many others is their statement that “Lolita’s tank meets the AWA minimum requirements.”  It is time for APHIS to step up to the plate and quit turning a blind eye to the illegal conditions Lolita has been living in for over 40 years.


1. Write, call or email APHIS. Send a Freedom of Information Act request asking them for the proof that Lolita’s tank is legally sized.

USDA APHIS Animal Care:
4700 River Road, Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
Ph: 301-734-7833

2. Boycott the Miami Seaquarium. Tell your friends, family, everyone you can to stay away from the Miami Seaquarium.

3. Educate yourself about Lolita. Spread awareness. Visit and Orca Network to learn about Lolita’s story and ways you can help.

4. Contact your local Congressmen and ask for their help to enforce the AWA.

5. Watch the documentary Lolita: Slave To Entertainment. Arrange for a screening at your local library, school, college, etc.

6. If you live in or near Miami, join the other protestors the last Saturday of each month from 12:00-2:00 outside of Seaquarium, located at 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2010 3:03 am

    Thank you for clearly explaining the legal case against the Miami Seaquarium. As they pay no attention o to ethical arguments, this seems the best case to get some action. Someday. Maybe. We hope. Thank you, and keep on.

  2. withoutme permalink
    December 30, 2010 2:50 pm

    How did you get the ruler up on Google Maps?

  3. Suzzle permalink
    December 30, 2010 7:44 pm

    A HUGE well done for taking the trouble to do this research. I really hope you are able to make a difference.

    In the UK we have the RSPCA who have legal rights to investigate and prosecute all cases that involve animal cruelty and breaches of law in animal husbandry.
    Is there no organization in the States with similar powers? I know the RSPCA would investigate this based on your evidence.

    If no-one with authority will act I suggest you send this info to all the local media newsdesks and to the producers of investigative TV shows/news stories.

    Good Luck with this & very well done!

    Suz x

    • December 30, 2010 8:26 pm

      Thank you Suz….I am working on seeing who will help with this matter. It is obvious the governing agencies refuse to step up and do what is right, so this may result in legal action. I am exploring several possibilities at this time. Will post any updates.

  4. January 23, 2011 10:15 am

    Wendy, this is the most effective way to apply leverage on APHIS to expose violations of AWA regs I’ve seen. Together with the OSHA citations and hearings, the paper by Jeff Ventre and John Jett on The Orca Project, the pending lawsuit by the Brancheau family, It’s starting to look like APHIS may be thinking it’s time to do their job.

  5. cay free permalink
    February 16, 2011 7:54 pm

    I just sent an email requesting the report and proof of the size. I doubt I will hear back from anyone.

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