On 5th December 2022, the animal rights group PETA submitted a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting that the agency investigate the aquarium SeaQuest for unfair business practices. This has to do with incidents when members of the public have been bitten and injured at the aquarium chain during its hands-on encounters with animals.
SeaQuest is an Idaho-based chain of for-profit aquariums, petting zoos, and animal exhibitions whose business model relies on direct contact between customers and wild animals. SeaQuest operates its facilities entirely indoors, typically in shopping malls, in ten locations in ten different states across the country.
According to PETA, at SeaQuest Utah, a kinkajou allegedly bit an unsupervised guest who had reached under the door of an enclosure, an otter bit a guest’s thumb, an otter bit a person’s finger while being fed, a coati bit an employee and a guest, and the same coati bit an employee and a guest the following month, causing skin abrasions.
Michelle Sinnott, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said, “SeaQuest’s animal encounters have caused significant physical injury to an unsuspecting public, thereby violating the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair trade practices. PETA is calling on the government to act before another person is wounded or worse at these facilities, which are ticking time bombs.”
Hundreds of animals have died at SeaQuest locations across the country. In 2017, Vince Covino, the chain’s CEO, was fined $5,000 for violations of the Idaho Uniform Securities Act after failing to reveal a prior disciplinary action to potential investors. PETA also submitted an FTC complaint over animal encounters at Austin Aquarium, which apparently is run by Vince Covino’s brother, who PETA said was prohibited to get involved in the construction and animal acquisitions for SeaQuest because of his criminal convictions.