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In defiance of eviction, Miami Seaquarium continues operations while drowning in controversy

Miami Seaquarium defied eviction, remained open Sunday
Miami Seaquarium defied eviction, remained open Sunday 02:27

VIRGINIA KEY — Leave or else: The company running the Miami Seaquarium faces eviction if it does not move off Miami-Dade County-owned property on Sunday. However, crowds that showed up saw a different kind of migration.

Park managers opened gates and let customers with tickets or passes inside until 5 p.m. when the Seaquarium closed after a normal seven-hour business day.

One of those allowed inside was veterinarian Dr. Crystal Heath, who recorded and posted online a video of a parrot she says appeared to be acting strangely.

Similar allegations that staff doesn't properly care of its animals are at heart of the conflict between Miami-Dade County and The Dolphin Company, which runs the Seaquarium and leases the space from the county. Citing a history of "troubling violations" and "poor living conditions," county leaders terminated the Seaquarium's lease and gave The Dolphin Company until April 21 to move out or face eviction.

But throughout the day, CBS News Miami saw no signs of leaving, which fired up protesters upset with park managers.

"The public and South Florida wants to see this place closed, and we're going to continue to show up until they stop putting animals through hell and relocate these animals to reputable facilities," said PETA activist Amanda Brody.

One animal that was relocated in December — Juliet the manatee — died Sunday morning at ZooTampa. Her cause of death is not yet known but she was taken from the Seaquarium after a federal inspection cited the park for neglect.

On Friday, The Dolphin Company filed a federal lawsuit, accusing the county of violating its lease agreement. In court documents, Seaquarium managers claimed animals inside the facility would die if they were forced out, and moving could start a negative ripple effect on local business and tourism in South Florida.

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