A top SeaWorld veterinarian has been targeted by animal activists over his allegedly false claims about the company's captive orca whales. The group PETA filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Tuesday saying that SeaWorld's vice president of veterinary services violated Florida's veterinary medical practice regulations, by fraudulently claiming their orcas are "thriving."
In a September 4, 2014 guest column titled "SeaWorld Responds" published in Florida Today, SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Chris Dold wrote:
As a veterinary professional who has dedicated his life to ensuring the health of animals, I can unequivocally state that our whales, along with every other animal in our parks, are thriving, both mentally and physically. More than 80 percent of the whales and dolphins that live in our parks were born in these very same parks.
The PETA complaint alleges that there is a litany of evidence to suggest that the orcas are not "thriving" mentally or physically. In the past, video footage and photos taken at the company's three marine parks has shown orcas getting caught in gates, "raking" one another with their teeth, wearing down their teeth on concrete and lolling at the top of the water more often than their counterparts in the wild would.
Photos taken in 2012 by orca scientist Dr. Ingrid Visser showed one SeaWorld orca with a gaping gash on her lower jaw, while other footage showed the gruesome death of an orca whose head was crushed in a gate, after which he bled to death. SeaWorld has also admitted to administering psychotropic drugs like diazepam, a drug like Valium that is used to treat anxiety, to calm its whales.
Captive orcas at SeaWorld also live much shorter lives than wild whales, despite the claims of the company and its trainers.