Austin Aquarium neglects animals, disregards worker safety: PETA

Austin Aquarium neglects animals, disregards worker safety: PETA

PETA, a non-profit that works to expose animal abuse, says Austin Aquarium is neglecting its animals and that guests of the business and staff have been bitten as a result of the neglect.

PETA says that an investigator with the organization worked undercover at the Austin Aquarium for four months in 2022. While he was there, he recorded interactions with the staff and allegedly gathered a mountain of evidence proving the aquarium mistreats its animals.

“The Austin Aquarium is a house of horrors, where animals are abandoned to die, suffer in barren enclosures, and bite staff and visitors out of frustration,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is calling on the authorities to crack down on this shady operation and urging everyone to stay a mile away.”

The investigator found the following information during his undercover employment, according to PETA:

12 visitors, 11 staffers had been bitten by wild animals

Video taken by the investigator reveals aquarium employees discussing being bitten by animals, and then lying to medical professionals about what type of animal they were bitten by to avoid having to report the bite to authorities. The staff members also said visitors get bitten often. One of the visitors that had been bitten was a seven-year-old. PETA says the investigator was also bitten by lemurs and a capybara during his time at the aquarium.

the proper organization due the animals biting is result of them being stressed out to the conditions of the aquarium and the lack of treatment

Otters held in cramped enclosures, showing signs of severe stress

PETA’s investigator took video of two otters inside an enclosure that were showing signs of psychological stress. PETA says one of the otters was chewing his paw repeatedly, and the other was thrusting her head back, which began after she was forced to do more feeding “encounters” with visitors, according to an inspection report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA ).

The investigator says an employee of the aquarium admits that the staff doesn’t provide enough enrichment to the otters, and that some animals have been given CBD and other oils for their anxiety and to cope with stress.

Multiple animals had gone missing or been released in the aquarium

Staff can be heard in the PETA investigator’s video speaking about vine snakes, which are venomous, going “missing.” Staff members said they found a snake at the front desk of the aquarium at one point, and that missing snakes had even made their way to a neighboring business.

Staff also told the investigator that the husband of the owner of the aquarium, Ammon Covino, supposed nearly 600 lizards “unnecessary” and they were released inside and outside of the building, according to PETA.

Aquarium staff denied animals of needed veterinary care

Covino and his wife allegedly denied a blue iguana veterinary care because of the cost. PETA’s investigator says the iguana, named Igor, had a suspect broken leg and needed medical attention. Staff members were recorded by the investigator discussing this. One asked if expensive Igor was going to be given vet care, and the other proceeded to say the owners denied the care due to it being “too expensive.” The employees go on to say the facility brings in an estimated $60,000 per day.

PETA says aquarium staff put Igor in a cage outside with no heat lamp to wait for him to die, and he died three days later.

Aquarium owners are breaking USDA rules

According to PETA, Ammon Covino is directing the daily operations of the Austin Aquarium, but his wife, Crysty, is the legal owner. Ammon is prohibited from holding a USDA exhibitor’s license due to a wildlife trafficking conviction.

The investigator learned that Ammon stopped providing liability waivers to visitors, despite animal biting incidents occurring, because it “slowed down the business.”

One staff member told the investigator that “we break a lot of USDA rules.”

PETA says the Covina family runs multiple aquariums in Texas.

The organization has submitted its evidence of animal cruelty, disregard for worker safety and more to the City of Austin Animal Protection, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the USDA.

PETA is asking the agencies to launch an investigation into the accusations and to revoke the aquarium’s federal license to exhibit regulated animals.

To learn more about PETA’s investigation into the Austin Aquarium, click here.

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