ALDF Notice to Sue Houston Aquarium Over Tigers
ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND NOTIFIES RESTAURANT GIANT LANDRY’S INC. OF INTENT TO SUE FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT VIOLATIONS
Group Aims to Rehome Four White Tigers Living for 12 Years in the Downtown Aquarium
HOUSTON—Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Irvine & Conner PLLC served Houston’s Downtown Aquarium and Landry’s Inc. with a notice of intent to sue for violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The notice alleges harm and harassment to a federally listed species: four tigers, who are kept in deplorable conditions at the Aquarium. In the notice, ALDF reiterates its offer to rehome the tigers to a reputable, accredited sanctuary at no cost to Landry’s. If Landry’s declines this offer, the group will proceed with litigation after 60 days.
In December 2004, Landry’s transported four white tigers to its Downtown Aquarium restaurant and amusement park complex in Houston, Texas. For the last 12 years, Landry’s has deprived these four tigers—named Nero, Marina, Coral, and Reef—of any access to sunlight, fresh air, or natural surfaces. These species-inappropriate living conditions violate the ESA, which has protected tigers since 1970.
In the wild, tigers cover a range of up to 40 square miles. In contrast, at the Downtown Aquarium, the tigers’ entire world is limited to a few hundred square feet. The tigers alternate their time between the concrete “Maharaja’s Temple” on display to the public and a small metal cage out of the public’s sight. At no point do the tigers have the opportunity to run, jump, or engage in the full range of their natural behaviors.
“The dungeon-like conditions that the tigers are forced to endure at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium harm their physical health and psychological wellbeing, and deny them much that is natural and important to a tiger,” says renowned big cat veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad. “It is cruel to confine complex, roaming carnivores such as tigers to a tiny, dark, artificial, unenriched enclosure where they never see any daylight, much less bask in sunshine, and are at risk for serious long term, debilitating injuries from being forced to live on slippery, unyielding concrete their entire lives.”
The tigers’ living conditions starkly contrast with the decades-long trend to place captive tigers in more natural habitats, such as the tiger habitat at the Houston Zoo. Of the more than 100 Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities housing tigers in the United States, only one other facility does not have an outdoor exhibit for the tigers: the Downtown Aquarium in Denver, also owned by Landry’s.
“Tigers are complex apex predators with specific biological, environmental, and enrichment needs,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Landry’s, Inc. should stick to the restaurant business and leave the housing of tigers to those who are able to provide big cats with proper care and naturalistic habitats rather than sacrificing the wellbeing of an endangered species for the sake of tourist dollars.”
By forcing these tigers to live in what amounts to a concrete dungeon, Landry’s has profited financially, but caused the tigers serious mental and physical harm. Keeping the tigers at the Downtown Aquarium advances no conservation purpose under the ESA. Retiring the tigers to a sanctuary will guarantee that the tigers may spend the rest of their lives in the species-appropriate conditions that they need and deserve.
A copy of the notice and photographs are available on request. aldf-sue-houston-zoo
About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
About Irvine & Conner PLLC
Irvine & Conner regularly represents citizen groups, landowners, and individuals in a wide range of environmental and land use disputes in Texas state and federal courts. Irvine & Conner’s practice includes ESA litigation on behalf of endangered species living in Texas, including ocelots, whooping cranes, and golden-cheeked warblers. For more information about Irvine & Conner’s work, please visit www.irvineconner.com.