Federal inspectors cite San Antonio Aquarium for keeping animals in hot, potentially unsafe conditions

PETA is urging the facility to shift to animal-free entertainment and relocate its wildlife to other facilities.

click to enlarge The damning USDA inspection report is just the latest controversy for the embattled road side zoo. - Photo via Google Maps
Photo via Google Maps
The damning USDA inspection report is just the latest controversy for the embattled road side zoo.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the San Antonio Aquarium for failing to meet federal care standards, prompting animal rights group PETA to call on the attraction to give up the wildlife in its care.

During a July 20 inspection, USDA agents found rabbits kept in areas that were above the acceptable heat level and baby kangaroos housed in a potentially unsafe office, according to a report from the agency.

Officials with the San Antonio Aquarium were unavailable for immediate comment on the inspection.

According to the USDA report, inspectors found that the temperatures within the facility rose to 89 degrees due to an HVAC system failure. That's higher than the temperature allowable under federal regulations, the report states.

"One rabbit was laying stretched out next to the cool brick wall in the exhibit," according to the inspectors' notes. "This is a sign the rabbit may have been experiencing discomfort due to the temperature increase."

Although the rabbits were eventually moved to a cooler part of the facility, the inspector discovered that two juvenile kangaroos were housed inside pouches on hooks in an office, according to the report.

"There are electrical cords, tools, and other supplies on the office floor that pose a risk to injuring the animals," the inspectors wrote. "A dedicated housing enclosure must be provided for these animals to protect them from injury."

USDA agents gave the aquarium two days to install an enclosure for the joeys.

Although legally owned by Crystal Covino, PETA alleges that her husband, convicted wildlife trafficker Ammon Covino, is calling the shots at the San Antonio Aquarium.

Ammon Covino was convicted of conspiring to illegally transport spotted eagle rays out of Key West in 2013, and is barred from operating a zoological facility.

"In any facility this convicted wildlife trafficker has a hand in, animals are at serious risk of suffering from extreme temperatures, injury, and other abuse," PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott said in a press statement. "PETA is calling on everyone to shun this shady petting zoo and for the USDA to revoke the license of any facility associated with Ammon Covino."

PETA established a webpage where people can send messages to the owners of the San Antonio Aquarium urging them to shift to entertainment that doesn't involve displaying wildlife.

"Please never visit roadside zoos," PETA said in its statement. "Politely tell the Covinos to focus on animal-free entertainment and transfer the animals at the San Antonio Aquarium to reputable facilities."

The USDA's July complaint is only the latest controversy for the Northwest San Antonio attraction.

In 2018, the Leon Valley Fire Department evacuated the aquarium and ordered it closed due to code violations, including "unsecured propane tanks, heaters in unvented enclosures, a hazardous gas main tap, blocked or inappropriate emergency exits and non-compliant, hazardous electrical wiring."

And, in March 2020, the Leon Valley Police Department temporarily shut down the facility for violating the emergency declaration closing non-essential businesses due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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