Lawsuit Filed Against Laundry's Inc. For Cruel Treatment of Tigers and Violation of the ESA
For over 13 years, four tigers, Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef, have been kept indoors at the Downtown Aquarium, owned by Landry's Inc.Named "Maharaja’s Temple," the tiger exhibit has cement and stone flooring, insufficient sunlight, lacks adequate fresh air and water, and is a mere 100 square feet, in comparison to the 40 square miles tigers can range, and the 18 miles they can swim up to per day in the wild. These inadequate living conditions deny the tiger's of their most natural behaviors, such as swimming, running, stalking, or simply breathing fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun or grass on their feet.
Such deprivation is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of which has been protecting tigers for over 47 years, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is not standing for it.
In September of 2017, the ALDF served Landy's Inc. with a notice of intent to sue, while according to the ALDF, also "...offering to forego the lawsuit if the company accepted the group’s offer to rehome the tigers to a reputable sanctuary at no cost to Landry’s."
However, in an attempt to tighten their self-serving and oppressive grip on the tigers, Landry's Inc. and Downtown Aquarium Inc. filed a lawsuit against the ALDF for defamation; claiming the ALDF was publicly and falsely harming their reputation.
On February 24th, a Harris County Judge granted the ALDF an anti-SLAPP motion (anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation) and dismissed Landry's suit. Simply put, the judge ruled that Landy's defamation suit was completely baseless and that the ALDF, along with the public, have the right of free speech.
The judge also awarded the ALDF with over $600,000 in sanctions and attorneys’ fees against Landry’s. As promised, the ALDF has now taken the next step and filed a lawsuit against Landy's for the mistreatment of Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef, and violation of the ESA.
The Downtown Aquarium claims on their website that the tiger exhibit is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), "which hold the property to the highest of industry standards." They also claim that "fewer than 10 percent of all USDA public display permit holders are able to meet AZA’s rigorous accreditation standards," and "routine inspections by USDA are conducted annually and the property remains in total compliance."
Whether or not the USDA considers the inadequate living conditions of the animals held by Landy's and Downtown Aquarium in compliance with US animal welfare regulations and the ESA is a story for another day.
The fact of the matter is, out of over 100 facilities that are AZA accredited, only two of them that house tigers in the US do not provide outdoor access for the animals, and both of them are owned by Landry's; Downtown Aquarium in Houston and Downtown Aquarium in Denver. Downtown Aquarium in Denver also holds Sumatran Tigers, and both locations display other animals such as sea otters, turtles, freshwater and Cownose rays, as well sharks, a verity of other fish, and amphibians.