Downtown Aquarium owners, Landry's, facing possible lawsuit over tigers at Houston location

Posted at 1:47 PM, Sep 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 10:13:42-04

HOUSTON -- The owner of Denver and Houston's Downtown Aquarium's is facing a possible lawsuit over its tigers at the Houston location.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund told Denver7 it served the aquarium's parent company, Landry's, with a notice of intent to sue for violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The intent to sue letter says, "Landy's has deprived these tigers of access to sunlight, fresh air, natural surfaces and species-appropriate environmental enrichment. These conditions violate the ESA."

In a news release sent to Denver7, the ALDF accused Landry's of "harm and harassment to a federally listed species" and said the four tigers in Houston are "kept in deplorable conditions at the Aquarium."

The ALDF said it is offering "to rehome the tigers to a reputable, accredited sanctuary at no cost to Landry’s."

"Of the more than a hundred AZA-accredited facilities housing tigers in the United States that were surveyed, only two do not have outdoor exhibits for the tigers: the Downtown Aquarium in Houston and the Downtown Aquarium in Denver," the intent to sue said.

An ALDF spokesperson said the outcome of the Houston case could affect Denver.

"Should Landry’s refuse to do the right thing and take ALDF up on its offer to retire the cats to a reputable sanctuary, the outcome of the ESA litigation against Landry’s in Texas will be precedent that may impact Landry’s in Colorado," said Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife and Regulatory Affairs at the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Landry's general counsel Steven L. Scheinthal sent a statement to Denver7 that said:

We are outraged at the false and manipulative statements of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its counsel.  Landry’s will not tolerate their libelous and slanderous conduct and will be filing a lawsuit against all such parties.  The Downtown Aquarium has been an AZA accredited institution since it opened its doors in 2003 and has served as an educational experience for thousands of school children since its existence.  Our tigers receive the highest level of care and treatment and have always exhibited the signs of well-maintained animals.  We are aware of the proposed changes to the AZA accreditation standards and once enacted, we will make every effort to comply to the new standards.  If we are unable to make such changes, we will move our tigers to a new home but not to any of the sanctuary facilities suggested by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as sanctuary facilities have been accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act as well as failing to prevent physical harm, provide adequate food, water, or medical care to their animals.

Two 12-year-old girls in Colorado started a petition drive in August asking Denver’s Downtown Aquarium to get rid of its tigers.

More than 142,000 people have signed the petition.


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