Sea World of Texas is rejecting the latest allegations raised by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, that the killer whales and sea lions at the park show signs of abuse and should not be held in captivity, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"I have to tell you, this is the ninth time in the past two years that PETA has filed claims about our animal welfare, and none of those claims were found to have any merit," Sea World Director of Corporate Communications Becca Bedes told News Radio 1200 WOAI's Megan Bishop. "This is no different."
PETA veterinarian Dr. Heather Rally says she visited the park recently and saw scratches on the bodies of many of the whales, and displayed pictures of the teeth of several of the whales, which she said are particularly disturbing.
"All of the orcas that I observed at Sea World San Antonio showed signs of dental trauma, which is likely the result of wearing and breaking their teeth on hard surfaces in their tanks," she said.
But Sea World veterinarian Dr. Les Dalton is suspicious of a diagnosis made by a park visitor who simply walked by the tanks and observed the animals.
"It's interesting that someone can just walk around our park and document these medical problems," he said. "It's very difficult to do eye exams with slit lamps and so forth and come up what she is coming up with through just a casual observation.
Rally said she is a trained marine veterinarian, and says her observations were anything but casual.
Another problem she says she clearly saw was sea lions, who have sensitive vision due to their native habitat, being forced to stare up into the sun to beg for food from park visitors. She said the entire layout of the San Antonio park is wrong.
"At Sea World there is little shade where animals can retreat from the scorching sun in their enclosures," she said. "A lack of shade can cause a myriad of health problems, including sunburn, stress, and damage to the eyes."
PETA is demanding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture investigate violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and called on Sea World to release all of its animals into marine parks in the ocean, and swear off using live animals as attractions.
Chris Fellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations at Sea World, says the park stands by its commitment to conservation and animal welfare.
"We are proud of the work that we do," he said. "That may be a difference. They are solely focused on the animals. We care about our animals, but we also care about the animals out in the wild."