Do you dream of owning a dolphin in the USA? Then you’ll need to read this.
Have you ever wondered if you could own and keep your very own dolphin right there in your backyard? Or have you been dreaming of the possibility of creating your own miniature marine park as part of your home or business premises.
Imagine having a playful bottlenose dolphin in a nice pool on your grounds. That would delight your kids and visitors and stand you out as being really cool wouldn’t it?
But what are the legalities involved in owning a dolphin in the USA? Is it even legal to keep such an exotic pet in the first place?
Well, you’d want to read on to get the right answers.
What Do US Laws Say About Owning A Dolphin?
Although the United States is considered to have one of the most encompassing animal welfare standards worldwide, there are still some shortfalls regarding the safeguards and standards to protect one of the most loved marine creatures; dolphins.
United State regulations are still not specific on the matter especially when one is talking about dolphin shows at aquariums, or swim attractions, or wading programs at marine parks.
In essence, the U.S has no identifiable law that’s clearly designed to protect the welfare of dolphins.
Rather the prevailing laws predominantly focus on regulating the captivity industry. They do this by providing guidelines for capturing and keeping wild dolphins.
So, since there is a clear difference between regulations and guidelines, the situation leaves an opportunity for dolphins to be exploited and abused.
So Can You Just Go Out And Buy A Pet Dolphin?
Well, not so fast.
You can’t keep them, at least not as a pets. You’ll need permits. And that’s where it gets tricky.
To get the required permits, you must be an educational concern or a government-affiliated program. Also, your establishment needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the dolphins are held strictly for education or research.
To be more specific, in order for an individual or marine facility to obtain a dolphin, there is an application which is submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS). And then it is referred further to the Marine Mammal Commission for review.
However before the application is approved, one has to meet the requirements as stipulated in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These requirements are in place to prevent individuals from capturing and keeping dolphins as part of their private collection.
- The facility, education, or conservation program must follow the recognized standards of the public display community. This includes the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
- The public must access it on a regular basis.
- Unless licensed under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), an individual or facility cannot keep a marine mammal on display.
Standards For Keeping Dolphins
According to the AWA, below are the major criteria that all individuals or facilities that want to keep dolphins need to follow:
1) The size of the dolphin tank matters and it must be able to hold the animal. AWA states that for a dolphin to be comfortable it needs a space measuring 24 X 24 feet and around 6 feet deep.
However, for an animal that swims over 40 miles a day in the wild, this spacing estimates are surprisingly inadequate.
2) Water quality and sanitation must be impeccable.
3) The mode of handling and transportation must be safe for the animal.
4) The type of food must be of good quality and must meet the diet required.
5) Health care of the animal should be available at all time; that is, a specialized veterinary doctor should be available.
The entire process can take years to come through even though the application itself is free.
Furthermore, it’s a known fact that since 1989, no permits have been granted giving anybody the right to capture wild dolphins. Yet people still capture them illegally.
The fact remains that the lives of dolphins in captivity are still relatively poor compared to the freedom and social life these creatures enjoy out in the wild.
Taking a dolphin from the sea to a tank is just like keeping the animal in a bath tub for the rest of its life!
For such a playful and energetic animal, putting it in a confined environment is limiting its potential and shortening its lifespan.