Protests against the treatment of animals at the Covino-run Las Vegas aquarium

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This is the SeaQuest interactive aquarium under construction last year in Layton, Utah, near Salt Lake City. This aquarium, which opened in November, is one of two SeaQuest aquariums that opened last year in Utah and Nevada, with a third scheduled for this year in Texas.

Salt Lake City Grandstand

Protesters gathered outside a new Las Vegas aquarium founded by a man from Boise on Saturday, alleging the animals inside were not being cared for properly.

Boisean Vince Covino is founder and CEO of Seaquest interactive aquarium, which also has a new aquarium in Layton, Utah, and one under construction in Fort Worth, Texas.

Saturday’s protest follows allegations by a former Las Vegas Aquarium worker that animals are being abused, KTNV-TV reported.

Covino told the Idaho Statesman that former employee Chris Stansell resigned immediately after being dismissed for promotion.

“He wasn’t even in the breeding department,” Covino said in an email. “His only job was birthday parties. The breeding team did an amazing job there to keep the animals healthy and happy. This story is completely false. Animal Control has been on two tours there this year, and I’m working on getting a copy of those positive reports. ”

Stansell told the Statesman he was promoted from director of field visits to senior director of customer services. He also provided his resignation letter on March 23 after five months of working at the aquarium.

Since the aquarium opened in December, “something like that over 200 animals have died,” he wrote. Among them were two octopuses, at least 15 lionfish, an eel pond, many stingrays including 11 in a single night and baby turtles.

He said some birds have died after being deprived of food to encourage them to interact with customers who buy food that the aquarium sells for hand-feeding.

“These animals are not sick or lame, they arrive healthy and full of life, and these conditions are killing them, and more bodies will surely fill many more freezers in the months to come,” Stansell wrote. “The only thought I have when I hold a bird that is so exhausted from lack of food that it can barely move until it dies is that this corporate sham is building a another location in Texas with plans for 20 more locations across the country in the next five years. ”

Protesters also challenged Covino and his brother Ammon Covino, who co-founded and operated Idaho’s old aquarium in Boise.

Ammon Covino was jailed in 2013 for conspiring with another Idaho aquarium co-founder of bringing illegally harvested spotted rays and lemon sharks from Florida to Boise for display.

The aquarium is now run by a non-profit organization not associated with the Covinos and has been renamed Boise Aquarium.

KTNV called Vince Covino and asked if his brother was involved with the Las Vegas Aquarium. Covino referred the request to Alui Hernandez, a spokesperson for the company, who said Ammon Covino had no affiliation with SeaQuest.

She also denied Stansell’s claims that animals are being abused.

“These claims are false and made by disgruntled employees,” Hernandez told KNTV. “We take great pride in the way we take care of our animals at SeaQuest. “

Hernandez wouldn’t say if any animals have died since the aquarium opened last year.

Last month, Covino agreed to pay Idaho $ 5,000 for breaking state law while raising investment funds for new aquariums in three other states.

A former broker, Covino had previously had problems with investor money. He was registered in Idaho as a stockbroker from January 1998 until December 2011, when his registration was suspended for 30 days after the securities industry self-regulatory body, the Financial sector regulatory authority, ruled that he improperly borrowed money from a client to buy a house.

He violated the Idaho Uniform Securities Act last fall by failing to disclose the 2011 disciplinary action to two investors who bought nearly $ 1 million in stakes in SeaQuest interactive aquariums, said the Idaho Department of Finance.

Covino on March 14 accepted the fine, accepted the state record of events and pledged to abide by the law by signing an agreement and an order drafted by the Ministry of Finance.

This story was originally published April 17, 2017 2:06 pm.


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Boyd S. Abbott

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