USDA inspectors back at Miami Seaquarium with final report expected this week


VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – USDA inspectors were back at the Miami Seaquarium Tuesday following last June’s scathing 17-page report citing numerous serious animal welfare violations, which included feeding rotten fish to the animals, dolphins dying, and Lolita’s tank crumbling.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado has been in contact with inspectors who say the final USDA report on the seaquarium should be expected in the coming days.

“What I heard to date is that she is not going to be displayed,” Regalado said. “Now we have to see what they say about fixing the tank, about moving her. I have been told that she’s in better heath but there are concerns about moving her in her delicate state.”

Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, has been on a 24-hour watch since last Wednesday night amid reports she has pneumonia. The seaquarium says the 56-year-old orca is improving and in a recent statement, said, in part:

“She is constantly monitored closely by her team of dedicated and loving caregivers.”

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Despite the statement, Regalado is not at all comforted by that.

“We’re concerned about the qualifications, we’re concerned about the intent, and we’re concerned about folks covering up what may have happened in the past,” she said.

On Friday, Regalado sent a memo to her fellow commissioners asking that a third-party veterinarian be allowed into the seaquarium to examine Tokitae, and that the new lease for the park should be amended to allow county oversight moving forward.

“The county has a vested interest that all the animals there are safe and healthy and the best way to do it is with a third party,” she said.

The full memo can be seen at the bottom of this story.

Miami-Dade County owns the land the seaquarium sits on and will not transfer its lease from its current owners, Palace Entertainment, to the company that recently purchased it, Mexican-based The Dolphin Company, until the U.S Department of Agriculture concludes its investigation into numerous animal welfare violations at the park.

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Meanwhile, the fate and health of Lolita, the seaquarium’s famed orca, hangs in the balance.

The current owners of the seaquarium have not agreed to an independent vet coming in to examine Toki, so the only updates on how she’s really doing come from them.

The Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners is expected to take the matter up at the next commission meeting on March 1.

Regalado memo (WPLG)

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