Demand Shutdown of Irresponsible, Inhumane Aquariums

Target: US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Goal: Shut down aquariums owned by the Covino brothers, whose facilities have a history of inhumane treatment and excessive death tolls

Brothers Ammon and Vince Covino currently own two aquariums in Portland and Idaho, and are working on opening a third in Austin, Texas. The problem with these aquariums is a “death log” from the Portland location showing that 200 animals have died in the nine months it has been open to the public. This log lists a variety of species dying, due to causes of “starvation, infection, attacks, power losses and extreme high temperatures in their enclosures.” Numerous other fish were pronounced dead after being found “stuck in drain.”

At least two animal care professionals terminated their relationships with the Aquarium as a result of the excessive death tolls and consistent neglect of animals, unable to deal with the owners’ disregard for their professional counsel and expertise in favor of the facility’s bottom line.

The US Department of Agriculture regulates all animal exhibition facilities except those featuring cold-blooded species – a loophole allowing the Covino brothers, who have no experience with marine biology themselves, to operate their aquariums without licenses, accreditation, or inspections from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. So far, although Texans are beginning to organize boycotts in protest of the upcoming Austin facility, no official action has been taken against the Covino brothers or their existing aquariums. The Oregon Humane Society is undertaking an investigation of the Portland Aquarium, but the USDA needs to step up and create regulations against mistreatment of cold-blooded animals, closing existing loopholes to make sure all captive creatures are treated humanely and respectfully. The Covino brothers’ blatant disregard for their own animal cruelty must be punished, and further incidents curtailed, by strengthening these regulations.

By signing this petition, you are calling on the Secretary of Agriculture to investigate and shut down these facilities. You are urging Secretary Vilsack and his colleagues to create and enforce regulations under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to prosecute irresponsible owners of captive marine animals, and to hold them accountable to standards of facility licensure and accreditation.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

I am alarmed to hear of the extreme and needless deaths at the Portland Aquarium – at least 200 in its nine months of operation. Animal care professionals who have previously worked with this facility have described the deaths as preventable and merely an attempt to keep costs down, and as a result at least two such professionals have felt obligated to terminate their relationships with the Portland Aquarium. Its owners, Ammon and Vince Covino, have a history of illegal animal trafficking and mistreatment of animals at their facilities, which include one each in Portland and Idaho, with a third in the works for Austin, Texas.

I am calling on you to investigate and shut down these facilities on the basis of inhumane treatment of their captive marine animals. This kind of treatment cannot be allowed to continue as an example for irresponsible animal facility entrepreneurs who decide that their bottom line is more valuable than preventing animal deaths and suffering. Please act now to create a safer environment for captive marine animals throughout the United States.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Colleen Benelli via Flickr

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