SeaWorld Won’t Appeal Citations Keeping Trainers Out Of Water During ‘Shamu’ Shows
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
The company that runs SeaWorld locations in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio says it won't appeal a federal job safety agency's findings of violations in the 2010 death of an animal handler, so trainers will remain out of the water during "Shamu" shows.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment revealed in a quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it would no longer pursue an appeal of citations issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in connection with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau — who was killed by an orca at the Florida park. The filing was made last week but didn't come to light until Wednesday.
In April, the company's initial appeal of the OSHA findings was rejected by appellate justices, who wrote that there was "evidence of continued incidents of aggressive behavior of killer whales toward trainers" despite SeaWorld's training and practices.
SeaWorld said at the time it would review the ruling before deciding whether to file another appeal.
A spokesman with the San Diego location declined to comment Wednesday.
SeaWorld has come under increasing fire from animal rights activists, and its stock plunged 30 percent last week when it conceded that adverse publicity has reduced patronage at the three parks.
In its filing, the company acknowledges facing legal and political risks.
"Additionally, from time to time, animal activist and other third-party groups may make claims before government agencies, bring lawsuits against us, and/or attempt to generate negative publicity associated with our business," the filing says. "Such activities sometimes are based on allegations that we do not properly care for some of our featured animals. On other occasions, such activities are specifically designed to change existing law or enact new law in order to impede our ability to retain, exhibit, acquire or breed animals."
A Santa Monica assemblyman has introduced legislation that would ban orca shows. An Assembly committee referred the bill for further study, which could take around one year.
In an attempt to head off the criticism, SeaWorld last week announced it would double the size of its orca tanks at the three parks and enhance its killer whale research program.