The owners of the Miami Seaquarium are vowing to fight an eviction lawsuit Miami-Dade County filed against them this week, as company officials say the negative press they’ve received from the county has been driving ticket sales down.

Officials with The Dolphin Company, which owns and operates the Seaquarium, held a news conference Wednesday, a day after the county filed the lawsuit to evict them from the property.

“This lawsuit by Miami-Dade County is frivolous,” Hilton Napoleon, an attorney representing the company, told reporters. “Our top priorities have always been the safety of animals, the safety of our customers and the safety of our employees.”

The lawsuit was filed by the county after the Seaquarium didn’t vacate the premises in April after they were served with an eviction notice.

The Seaquarium remained open for business Monday in the middle of the ongoing dispute.

The county moved to evict the company after multiple U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that found issues at the Seaquarium, including inadequate care for animals and problems with the park upkeep.

Levine Cava cited a “long and troubling history of violations” in a lease termination notice sent on March 7 to the chief executive officer of The Dolphin Company.

The company was told to vacate the property by April 21, according to the letter from the mayor’s office. The lease was originally set to be up in 2044.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Napoleon disputed the county’s allegations, saying the company had cured any USDA non-compliance issues, many of which were inherited by The Dolphin Company when they took over operations of the park in 2022.

Napoleon said the company tests the animals’ water daily, cleans their pools at least twice a week, and serves them restaurant-quality food.

“We take great pride in protecting the creatures and some of them eat better than a lot of people in this world,” he said.

The operator of the Miami Seaquarium filed a lawsuit Friday against Miami-Dade County days before their eviction.

He also said the animals have their vitals checked every day and that they receive care from the trained vet on site.

“When the county suggests that Miami Seaquarium is some place where we’re derelict in our duties, that is completely untrue, a human being in a hospital does not receive 24-hour, around-the-clock care like these animals do,” he said.

He added that the company has put millions of dollars into upgrading the park’s infrastructure since they took over, saying the lawsuit is about a land grab.

“We received information that the county has been contacted about the Miami Seaquarium and its land. That’s all I can say about that,” Napoleon said.

The Seaquarium’s Edwin Gonzalez said the park has seen a 40% drop in ticket sales that he attributes to negative press from the county’s actions.

The Seaquarium has until Monday to vacate the facility under the suit, with no clear plan on what will happen to the more than 100 animals at the park.

Napoleon said he expects to file something in court by Thursday to fight the eviction and delay Monday’s deadline.

“We are here to stay, we are here to operate in Miami-Dade County and to serve the people who want to see the facility,” Napoleon said. “We are not going to surrender this leasehold, we haven’t done anything wrong and we’re not going to let the county strong arm us out of it.”

The Seaquarium was famously home to Lolita, the beloved orca that died back in August. Animal rights activists had sought her freedom for years. The orca spent much of her life in a tank that measures 80 feet by 35 feet and is 20 feet deep, and stopped performing in shows at the Seaquarium in 2022.

The Seaquarium opened in 1955 overlooking Biscayne Bay and was among the first theme parks devoted to marine life. It garnered international attention in the 1960s when the television series “Flipper” was filmed there.



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