You can make a difference!
Although I do not agree with marine mammals being confined in captivity, I am happy to say that Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has corrected one of the citations they were given last year by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) for failure to comply with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). After visiting the park in August 2010, I found numerous violations of the AWA and reported them in a letter to APHIS. APHIS responded to my concerns stating they would look into my concerns by conducting an unannounced inspection at Six Flags which they did on November 10, 2010.
One of the non-compliant items Six Flags was cited for was the failure to have a perimeter fence along the back pool area of the killer whale and dolphin stadium. This was to be corrected by February 1, 2011.
Section 3.103(a) of the AWA requires a perimeter fence that is of sufficient height to keep unauthorized persons away from contact with marine mammals. The only thing that was separating the public from the pools was a simple handrail.
Anyone could have easily entered this area and climbed over the wall into the pools that house Shouka the killer whale and two bottlenose dolphins, Merlin and Cupid. This was especially concerning to me given the thousands of children who visit Six Flags each year. Now, the access into the back pools would not be so easy unless someone can conspicuously climb up this fence.
I had also reported to APHIS the disgusting conditions of the back pools at Shouka stadium. The viewing windows were covered in a thick growth of algae and the tanks were so dirty, you could barely see Shouka, Merlin or Cupid. It was very obvious that the tanks had not been cleaned in quite some time. Although APHIS did not cite Six Flags for the water quality in the tanks, Six Flags has made major improvements in the cleanliness of these tanks.
Marine parks are required to abide by the minimum standards set forth in the AWA in order to keep marine mammals on public display. It is the duty of APHIS to conduct inspections to ensure these marine parks are meeting the requirements of the law. For over a quarter of a century APHIS has been the governing agency overseeing animals in captivity. APHIS is an agency that is not known for their excellence in providing protection to animals in captivity. They are known more for their inaction than action. APHIS has been inspecting Six Flags for over 25 years and not once directly cited them for a failure to protect their marine mammals. They are supposed to know the law and report any conditions that do not meet the law, not turn a blind eye. It seems to me, the only way to get APHIS to actually do their job is to continue to publicly pressure them by writing very specific letters of complaint and reporting the violations of the AWA you have found to APHIS. When writing to APHIS what I have found to work the best is to write a professional letter stating the violations you found at the park, adding in the laws that correspond with what you found, include pictures and even videos with your letter of complaint. If you do not get a response from APHIS and you have found a clear violation of the AWA, do not give up. Continue to write to them, make phone calls and follow up. Eventually you will get the right person to look into your concerns. You can make a difference!!
Learn the Animal Welfare Act Report violations of the AWA to APHIS HeadquartersMailing Address:
4700 River Road, Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (301) 734-7833
Fax: (301) 734-4978
2150 Centre Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117
Phone: (970) 494-7478
Fax: (970) 494-7461
920 Main Campus Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606-5210
Phone: (919) 855-7100
Fax: (919) 855-7123