Animal rights advocates have filed an appeal on behalf of Lolita, a female orca whale who has lived in a small tank at the Miami Seaquarium since she was captured in 1970.
The appeal challenges the dismissal of a lawsuit which questioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture's automatic renewal of the marine park's Animal Welfare Act license. The lawsuit -- and the appeal -- were brought by the animal rights groups the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The crux of the lawsuit hangs on three issues -- PETA contends that Lolita is kept in a tank that is smaller than the minimum size required, has no orca companion and isn't sheltered from the sun.
This isn't the only way advocates have tried to free Lolita -- earlier this year, federal officials proposed including her as an endangered species, because she was once a member of the now-endangered Southern Resident killer whale population. The listing would allow for Lolita's transfer to a sea pen and a return to her native waters.