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DAVID U.

VALDEZ
THE DOLPHIN FREEDOM FOUNDAnON
824 S.W. 13th STREET P.O. BOX 2972
F.1:. LAUDERDALE, FL 33315
KEY LARGO, FL
(305) 462.1817 33037

During the period between April 1990 and June 1991 I was
employed at Dolphins ?lus in Key Largo, Florida. In my
capacity as an observer and later as a supervised handler, I
witnessed several instances wheye questionable animal care
was administered by Dolphins Plus staff.

My duties as a swim program coordinator also allowed me to


witness several instances of potentially dangerous and
actual aggressive acts by the dolphins in the program
against unsuspecting tQurists.

My concern in bringing this to light now is that I was


concerned at the time of these incidents but had little
experience in regards to normal husbandry practices or even
to whom my concerns should be addressed.

Having spent much time researching and agonizing over these


concerns, I realized that if I don't come forward sometime,
other animals as well as people would continue to be abused.

One of my reasons for IBaving Dolphins Plus was a difference


of opinion with management about how candid I cou~d or
shoUld be in responding to questions from c~s~omers.

Specifically I was silenced after truthfully responding to a


tourist's concern regarding dolphin aggression after the
same tourist witnessed a dolphin who t~il-slapped and
rostr~m (nose) butted another swimmer.

My response that dOlphins are capable of aggression towards


humans was deemed inappropriate and out of line. I was told
not to answer any such questions in the f~ture, rather I was
to refer anyone with concerns over doiphin aggression to
manager.len t .

In my opinion ~~ch of what the paying public is told during


pre-s'.im briefings is misleading and potentially dangerous.
Anatomy and physiology segments are accurate. However
discussions regarding animal behavior and potential
aggression are minimized. Discussion of past injuries to
swimmers or other dolphins is forbidden. In fact when
people were injured, they were told such behavior was so
rare as to be inexplicable.

Meanwhile all victims would be treated to "raincheck~", free


gifts iron the gift shop or ~efunds.
CANAL RELEASES?

The public is constantly misled into believing that the


dolphi~s are free to come and go f=om the confines of their
fenced pens. The canal into which they are released is
narrow and far from open water. The dolphins have never, to
my knowledge, ventured past a bridge next to the facility.

Given that all the dolphins were transported to the facility


by truck, it is understandable based on dolphin behavior and
acoustic capabilities that none of them is even aware that
open water is at the end of a 1500 foot canal.

On several occasions during canal releases that lasted


beyond planned duration (2 days), food deprivation was
instituted to entice th~ dolphins back into the compound.
Normal food intake was ieduced 50% to 80%.

On one occasion when two dolphins Nicky and Dreamer refused


to return for several days, a plan to trap them inside the
compound was devised. I was asked to jump in and use my
body to block the two escaping dOlphins.

They had been deprived of rations in order to entice t~em


into the pen. Another handler Chris Blankenship would
attract them by tapping the fish bucket in the water or
throwing fish in a far corner of the pen.

When the dolphins responded I jumped in to do a body block.


! had no net or any other device to disco~rage their exit.
T then had to close a gate.

.L report this to shed light on how free the dolphins are to


come and go. They seem to be released only when business is
s 1a c k a r1 d are forced to return to "earn their supper".

i'iHALE DEOPP ING

Whi~e I participated in a response to a stranded pygmy sperm


whale I .witnessed negligence on the part of our staff that
resu ted in the dropping and lacerating of an otherwise
unin ured animal.

Dolphins Plus received a call to respond to a stranded whale


in the mud flats near Lignum Vitae Key in the month of
November 1990 to the best of my recollection. The plan was
to assess the animal's condition and transport, if
necessary, to the Dolphin Research Center which was the
closer mammal facility.

Upon arriving we f6und a pygmy sperm whale tha~ was grounded


on soft mud with no apparent injuries or mar~ings. With all
the surrounding shallows, it was easy to surmise that in
it's remarkably good and unscathed condition, this whale had
made a navigational error.

However Chris Blankenship, head ~arine biologist at Dolphins


Plus, loaded the animal and 0rdered the animal to be
transported to Dolphins Plus. This was in direct defiance
of DOlphins Plus management orders. It also must have
confused the Dolphin Research Center staff who were waiting
for the animal's arrival at their facility.

Upon arrival at Dolphins Plus a surprised and outraged


management (Rick 3crguss) greeted us wi~h an epithet to
Chris Blankenship, "I told you to take it (the "Thale) to
DRC. If you do something like this again, I'll fire your
ass!"
, (
We proceeded to unload the animal. Six people, half of whom
were inexperienced volunteers from the swim program,
attempted top drop the approximate 400 pound animal into the
basin. I was told to position myself in the water to
monitor the animal's return to the wate~.

wtlat followed is represented by pictures that I'Ve enclosed.


In attempting to drop the animal into the water, the people
neglected to anticipate a coral ledge. A pad had been
placed under the animal but did not cover the jagged ledge.
The animal was dropped directly on the coral rock. T}lis
resulted in my seeing tremendous amounts of blood trailing
behind the animal as it aimlessly swam into the fence,
pilings and coral seawall.

Ultimately tnls animal was transported to the DOlphin


Research Center a day later. To the best of my knowledge
the DRC staff was told that this animal was found in its
lacerated and compromised condition. The animal died a
short time later at the Dolphin Research Center.

TOWEL SUFFOCATION

While responding to another mass stranding I witnessed Chris


Blankenship finding it necessary and appropriate to
euthanize a short-finned pilot whale by stuffing a wet towel
into the animal's blowhole.

Dolphins Plus was called to respond to a stranding of


several whales close to Cudjoe Key in the month of May 1991.
The largest animal presented logistic as well as some
problems with a bending of the spine and superficial shark
bites. Her le~gth aDd weight would req~ire more equipment
than was on hand to either refloat or move her.

With no diagnostic ~ata to determine any other problems and


no authorization, Chris Blankenship forced a towel into this
animal's blowhole until it stopped struggling and died.

I left following the procedure completely disgusted with the


method and goals of people who claim they are trying to care
for animals. I understand that Chris Blankenship and
Dolphins Plus have repeated this and other questionable
procedures since my departure. I do not understand why this
continues?!

I submit this statemenc as a true and accurate

repres:n~ation
at Doll.-'lllnS
of events that
Plus.
FLORIDA JUfU\T (E.S. 117.03)
I, witnessed
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S';'ATE OF FLORID? Subscribed and. s,.,ornto (or 2.ffirmed)before me

to is .11 Dav ot_ by __ .-l@y~.d j ._V21.d..e.z , ',.'1:.0


(DATE) January, 1993
:. ::;la-r~-p~..r-s.Q.Q.Q..J-Ly._k..nD..~_..tLL-RiE--o.:r;:- ha s ,L1::i~..1,[..f':

produced Flod.da DL iiV432-170-66-1050 a.s identifi-


-~ype of ~entification)

Pub1 c --.----.
240374
Commission :.

ABOV2) of :-Iotary typed,printec.

stamped)

THE DOLPHIN fREEDOM FOUNDATION


824 S.W. 13th STREET
F.T. LAUDERDALE, FL 33315
(305) 462·1817