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USDA report raises questions about dolphin care at Miami Seaquarium

Federal report raises questions about Seaquarium's care of its dolphims
Federal report raises questions about Seaquarium's care of its dolphims 02:40

VIRGINIA KEY -- A recently released report by federal regulators has raised troubling questions about the care given to dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium, finding that the mammals were underfed and underweight.

According to the 10-page report that was issued by the United State Department of Agriculture in July, the dolphins are turning violent as a result of their conditions at the facility, a 38-acre oceanarium originally founded in 1955 and located on the island of Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay.

But officials at the attraction, which is now under new management after being acquired by The Dolphin Company in March, told CBS 4 about what they found when they took over.

"When we acquired the Miami Seaquarium, our staff found many of the dolphins overweight," General Manager Patrick Pearson said Friday. 

The report from the USDA highlighted issues with aggressive and underweight dolphins.  

According to the report, nine of of 12 dolphins did not have diets that had been approved by veterinarians.

"The food deprivation these dolphins were subjected to also led to increased incidents of unwanted behaviors such as splitting or breaking from sessions," the report said.

Pearson disagreed.

"We didn't find that the aggression was coming from food," Pearson said. "There are a lot of factors. A lot of it is playful (and) they are not doing it to harm anybody."

According to Pearson, the dolphins are now at a healthy weight.

"Animal welfare and water quality are at the top of our list," he said.. "They [USDA] examined a period of time, when we were still transitioning. I think if they came here now they would be happy with what they'd see." 

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