Parrot at Miami Seaquarium.

Miami Seaquarium: Head Veterinarian Resigns Among USDA Animal Welfare Violations



Miami Seaquarium has had a single attending veterinarian to care for all of its animals—46 marine mammals, 50 birds, and hundreds of fishes, sharks, and rays since March 2023.

The Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department confirmed that Jessica R. Comolli, head veterinarian at Miami Seaquarium, has resigned, just weeks after losing a certification required in its lease. Both Miami-Dade’s mayor and county officials were made aware of the resignation on February 28, 2024.

A recent USDA inspection report obtained by World Animal Protection US cited repeated violations by the venue, including lack of appropriately trained personnel in Miami Seaquarium’s Veterinary Care department. As of the inspection, which took place in November 2023 and was published in January 2024, a single veterinarian was employed to care for 46 marine mammals, 50 birds, hundreds of fishes, sharks, and rays.

This had led to a number of routine physical exams having to be postponed since March of 2023 due to a lack of veterinary technicians.

However, even if Miami Seaquarium had an adequate number of veterinary care personnel, the report noted that the venue lacked appropriate facilities and equipment, “affecting the AV’s (attending veterinarian) ability to provide proper care” for animals held captive at the venue.

The USDA inspector specifically noted: “The AV will require appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment, and services deemed necessary to perform the diagnostic tests essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.” At the time, the attending veterinarian, likely Comolli, had concerns that Ripley, Panama, Onyx, and Sundance (dolphins) were showing signs of gastric distress, and suspected several dolphins had ulcers and ingested foreign objects. Confirming these diagnoses requires an endoscopy but the Miami Seaquarium had not provided an endoscope for this procedure to be performed. 

Head veterinarian Jessica R. Comolli’s resignation comes after a number of deaths at Miami Seaquarium, including Sushi, a female sea lion. Sushi was euthanized on January 16, 2024, a close source familiar with the venue told World Animal Protection. Sushi needed corrective eye surgery, but no surgeries could be done because the anesthesiologist and the surgeon had not been paid.

Ultimately, cancer was found in Sushi, which disqualified her from any eye surgery, and the venue euthanized her.

Liz Cabrera Holtz, Senior Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection US, said at the time of Sushi’s death:

“Every single animal at MSQ is in serious danger. We urge Miami-Dade County to swiftly shut this horror show down.”

Now, without confirmation that any attending veterinarian is on staff, every animal at Miami Seaquarium is further lacking access to routine medical care, putting them at immediate risk of injury, illness, and death. It also makes it clear now more than ever that the venue needs to be shuttered.

Miami Seaquarium doesn’t care about its animals—or its employees, as it can’t even provide the tools or the staff to allow them to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.

World Animal Protection encourages the Mayor and USDA to act swiftly in closing the dilapidated doors of Miami Seaquarium as animals continue to suffer for the Dolphin Company’s profits.

Take action now and demand the venue be shut down and animals freed from Miami Seaquarium’s care.

**Miami-Dade residents ONLY: Please urge the Miami-Dade County Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, to close Miami Seaquarium’s doors immediately.

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