Orca Sentenced to Lifetime Confinement

Miami, January 12, 2018 – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium brought by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and Orca Network. The lawsuit argued that the Seaquarium’s confinement of Lolita the orca to the world’s smallest orca tank—in which she’s displayed without protection from the sun or companionship of her own kind and with incompatible animals—subjects her to illegal harm and harassment in violation of the ESA. While the appeals court reversed the district court’s prior ruling that such “harm” or “harassment” must be potentially deadly to constitute a violation of the ESA, it did hold that such harm must be “serious” to constitute an ESA violation—but the court did not analyze the plaintiffs’ expert evidence or define what constitutes “serious” harm.

“This ruling sentences this highly intelligent, deeply lonely, and distressed orca to a lifetime of physical and psychological harm, confined to a tiny concrete cell without family, friends, or freedom,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “It ignores today’s understanding of how confined orcas suffer beyond imagination in captivity, and PETA is considering the options for further review.”

“Public sentiment has shifted—and it is now widely understood that keeping orcas in captivity is detrimental to their mental and physical health,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is promoting pending state legislation—H.B. 1305: Florida Orca Protection Act—that will, at a minimum, ensure that Lolita is the last orca to live in the tiny tank at the Miami Seaquarium.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.