SeaQuest Fort Worth, a marine-themed amusement at Ridgmar Mall, has received its second citation in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for allowing dangerous handling of its animals by the public.
There have been at least four incidents in which visitors were wounded at the facility.
According to the USDA report, SeaQuest allowed members of the public to come into contact with animals without adequate barriers in place on two occasions.
The first time was in February, when visitors were allowed direct contact with an Asian Small-Claw otter named Xander.
The USDA inspector noted that "the facility is allowing the public to interact with an Asian Small-Claw otter without a restraint on the otter or a barrier between the otter and the public. There have been two minor wounds to visitors in the one month that the otter has been on exhibit."
The agency noted that in public exhibition, "animals must be handled so that there is minimal risk of injury to the animals and the public," and recommended solutions such as a barrier, a harness on the animal, or better training on the part of the staff.
"Otters can be aggressive and have strong teeth and a powerful bite," the USDA said. "They have the potential to cause serious injury."
The USDA returned on June 19 and found not only that nothing had changed, but that two more visitors had been injured.
"The facility continues to allow public interaction with an Asian Small-Claw otter without restraint on the otter or a barrier between the otter and the public," the report stated. "The public interaction with the otter started in early February, and during that first month there were two incidents where visitors received minor wounds from the otter. Since February there have been two additional incidents where visitors received minor wound from the otter."
SeaQuest has a history of unsavory incidents at other locations, such as its facility in Littleton, Colorado, where at least 45 people — including a visitor who was reportedly bitten by a monitor lizard — have been injured by animals.
Its Las Vegas aquarium was fined $2,000 for having unpermitted animals, including otter pups who'd been illegally bred. An otter died there after her arm got caught in a filtration system in the enclosure.
According to PETA, former employees at that location have stated that birds were stepped on and killed, turtles were crushed by children, and an octopus died after being boiled alive in a tank.
SeaQuest Fort Worth opened in 2017 as an attempt by the Ridgmar Mall to revive itself. The 2019 incidents are not its first. In 2018, the USDA gave the facility a notice after multiple people sustained bite and scratch wounds from capybaras.
"There is always an employee present during these animal encounters; however, the presence of an employee has not stopped the bites and scratches," the report stated. "As these capybara become adults, the risk of more serious bites and scratches increases. Additional steps need to be implemented to stop injuries to the public by the capybara."
A PETA spokesperson says that SeaQuest's lack of response makes it a risky place to visit.
"This exploitative exhibitor either can't or won't provide the animals in its nasty little exhibits with proper care," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. "PETA is urging people to avoid SeaQuest or risk being injured by stressed wild animals who lash out in fear."