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Animal Welfare Group Requests Investigation Into Mystic Aquarium



Dr. Robert Gibbens
Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA-APHIS
[email protected] 
[email protected]

Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against the Mystic Aquarium/Sea Research Foundation, for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their negligence caused the death of a Beluga Whale. Their behavior should NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


Animal Welfare Group Requests Investigation Into Mystic Aquarium

From Julia Marnin,, June 3, 2022

Why did two beluga whales die within months of each other at a Connecticut aquarium? Here’s what to know. An animal rights organization is calling for a federal investigation into Mystic Aquarium and wants to see the facility “severely punished” after a beluga whale named Havana died in February, a complaint filed May 25 by Stop Animal Exploitation Now said.

This action comes after the death of another beluga whale, named Havok, in August 2021, according to the complaint and the aquarium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigated Mystic Aquarium in fall 2021 and cited the facility for violations related to Havok’s death as well as for water quality issues found afterward. The complaint alleges both whales “died illegally” at the facility as a result of “carelessness and negligence” when it came to their care. The nonprofit filed the complaint with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and accuses the aquarium of violating the Animal Welfare Act.

A spokesman for USDA APHIS’ Animal Care program said they have received the complaint and that the agency “is looking into it” in an emailed statement to McClatchy News on June 3. McClatchy News has also contacted Mystic Aquarium for comment. Havana and Havok were two of five beluga whales transported from Canada May 2021 for research, ABC News reported. At the time animal rights activists tried suing to stop the transportation of the belugas, warning of potential harm in moving the animals to the Connecticut aquarium. The aquarium described their belugas as contributing “to vital research that will help critically endangered beluga populations in the wild and preserve the species.” In regards to 6-year-old Havana’s death, the aquarium said she died on Feb. 11 when she “experienced an emergency” after exhibiting “abnormal behavior,” according to a May 9 letter to the National Institutes of Health that was attached to the complaint. She died while undergoing intensive care treatment due to a range of health issues, a news release said.

Mystic Aquarium added that veterinarians performed a necropsy on Havana and “confirmed numerous significant lesions indicating storage disease in the whale’s brain and spinal cord…and acute cardiac failure.” Before she died, it was discovered that there were high amounts of bacteria in the water of Havana’s pool in December, as well as another whale’s pool, according to a USDA inspection report attached to the complaint. It noted that this might have contributed to one of her health issues. Months before, Havok died from “a disease in its intestine that prevented it from processing nutrients,” the aquarium said, according to its news release announcing Havana’s passing. Havok was 5 years old when he died, and it was discovered that aquarium employees documented his “abnormal behavior” repeatedly before his death but did not tell a veterinarian, according to the USDA’s September 2021 inspection report. Some documented abnormal behavior included how two hours before he died, there were 10 instances of him bleeding, the report said.

“The facility failed to provide adequate veterinary care by not using appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases during Havok’s last eight hours,” the report noted. Stop Animal Exploitation’s complaint is asking the USDA to prosecute Mystic Aquarium after an investigation into the allegations that the aquarium violated the Animal Welfare Act and to issue a $10,000 fine “per infraction/per animal.”

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