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Sea lion euthanized at Miami Seaquarium, 3rd animal to die under facility's care in nearly a year

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MIAMI — A sea lion was euthanized at the Miami Seaquarium late last month, making it the third animal to die in the facility's care over the past year.

A spokesperson for the Office of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces, confirmed to CBS News Miami that Bud the sea lion was euthanized by the Seaquarium on March 28 — and the county did not learn of it until a week after his death.

"It is heartbreaking to learn the death of another animal at the Seaquarium," the provided statement wrote.

The news of Bud's death comes just months after two other marine mammals died under the Seaquarium's care: Lolita the orca and Sundance the dolphin.

According to the statement, a team from the county witnessed Bud's "lethargic condition" during their onsite inspection on March 27 — the day before he was allegedly euthanized — and repeatedly reached out to the Seaquarium for updates on the sea lion's health before he was put down.

According to the animal rights advocacy group Our Honor, their investigation into Bud's death led them to discover that the sea lion may have been suffering from kidney disease. Court documents shared by the group alleged that a former Seaquarium veterinarian had ordered a CT scan for Bud and a delay in diagnostics may have been a possible reason why the sea lion was one of four animals that the U.S. Department of Agriculture intended to confiscate during their January 2024 notice. CBS News Miami is working to confirm these allegations and documents.

The spokesperson told CBS News Miami that Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other county leadership remain "deeply concerned" about the "poor quality" of animal care that has been repeatedly documented by the USDA, adding that this was the exact reason why the county took action earlier this year to terminate the Seaquarium's lease.

"Our efforts to terminate the lease continue as we work to safeguard the safety and well-being of all the animals currently housed at the Miami Seaquarium," the statement continued.

Additionally, the sea lion's passing comes just a week after the Seaquarium shared its letter to Miami-Dade County Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Morales on X, stating that the facility was taking "corrective actions" to ensure it will comply with all the terms of its lease, including maintaining the health and safety of its animals and facilities after it faced eviction back in March. 

The Miami Seaquarium has been at the ire of both county and federal governments, along with local and national animal rights activists over the past several years, but frustration with the facility has grown even more over the past several months. In separate  USDA inspection reports, the agency has cited the South Florida aquarium with multiple violations, including inadequate veterinary care and facility conditions, along with poor animal handling, sheltering and sanitation.

In one of the most shocking inspections, the USDA found another sea lion refusing to eat because of untreated cataracts and a dolphin with a two-inch nail in its throat.

MS Leisure Company, Inc., along with the Dolphin Company — who manages the Seaquarium — issued the eviction notice after Miami-Dade County officials cited numerous and significant violations of its leasing agreement relating to the animal and facility neglect allegations it faced.

Despite calls for permanent closure, the Seaquarium has remained afloat and continues operations.

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