Conduct a thorough investigation & enforce the Animal Welfare Act at the Mirage dolphin habitat.
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A concerned citizen recently visited the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada and has reported that three dolphins at their facility have contracted a contagious disease called “pox virus”. Pox virus can be described most commonly as an infectious skin disease that appears on wild and captive dolphins in the form of skin lesions (or tattoos) and are usually a different color than the rest of the cetacean's skin. According to the Merck Manuals, the lesions could last a few short weeks to years. Pox virus is not contagious to human beings but as this is a virus there is a possibility it could mutate and affect human beings. Stranding organizations always wear gloves when a dolphin appears to have the pox virus to protect against any potential for contracting the skin disease. The seal pox virus has been known to cause lesions on trainers handling infected pinnipeds (although it is important to note this is a different strand of the virus).
Scientists document that stress, as well as contaminants, can play a large part in the manifestation of dolphin pox. These dolphins already live in a highly stressful environment; one can only imagine the effect this will have on the virus. It is also important to note that The Mirage Hotel and Casino already violates the Animal Welfare Act by refusing to provide adequate shade for the dolphins. The AWA does have regulations that require marine mammals adequate protection from high and low temperatures (3.103 part (a) & 3.118 section 2 of the AWA). Las Vegas has sweltering hot summers, often with temperatures climbing well into the 100's. These dolphins not only deserve a permanent shade structure, they critically need it, especially if three of them are coping with an infectious skin virus.
The Animal Welfare Act has strict regulations regarding veterinary care for marine mammals:
Page 109 section 3.110 Veterinary care(c) Any holding facility used for medical purposes that has contained a marine mammal with an infectious or contagious disease must be cleaned and/or sanitized in a manner prescribed by the attending veterinarian. No healthy animals may be introduced into this holding facility prior to such cleaning and/or sanitizing procedures. Any marine mammal exposed to a contagious animal must be evaluated by the attending veterinarian and monitored and/or isolated for an appropriate period of time as determined by the attending veterinarian.
Also the Animal Welfare Act once had regulations in place regarding human-interaction in the Swim-with-dolphin programs, which are now suspended:
3.111 swim-with-the-dolphin-programs (3) All cetaceans used in interactive sessions shall be in good health, including, but not limited to, not being infectious. Cetaceans undergoing veterinary treatment may be used in interactive sessions only with the approval of the attending veterinarian.
Regarding the Pox Virus itself two regulations pertain to the quality of the environment the dolphins are living in:
§ 3.106 Water quality (a) General. The primary enclosure shall not contain water which would be detrimental to the health of the marine mammal contained therein.
(d) Filtration and water flow. Water quality must be maintained by filtration, chemical treatment, or other means so as to comply with the water quality standards specified in this section (3.106)
The Mirage Hotel and Casino is in direct violation of all of these regulations. This facility is required to keep their contagious dolphins in a med pool away from their healthy dolphins and the general public. We also believe it's a risk to allow the participants of the “trainer for a day” program to have direct contact with these infected and contagious cetaceans. It is extremely irresponsible for the Mirage to allow this on a regular basis. We are directly petitioning USDA/APHIS about this violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Every signature on this petition will send a copy of the letter below to the western office of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It is our hope that the Mirage Hotel and Casino will be cited for these violations.
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