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LITTLETON, Colo. -- SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium is still operating inside Southwest Plaza Mall after complying with a cease and desist order from the State of Colorado.
Officials with the Colorado Department of Agriculture aren't the first to question the company's practices. Residents in Las Vegas held a protest last year after an ex-employee questioned how animals were being treated. Protests have also taken place outside a Florida mall where SeaQuest is set to open this fall.
Contact7 started looking into SeaQuest and CEO Vince Covino after hearing from concerned viewers who were disturbed by the conditions inside.
"The animals seemed scared which made me sad, so until they can fix something I don’t think we’re going to venture that way," said Molly Griffin after she made a trip to the aquarium with her young daughter and baby.
Earlier this week, a cease and desist order was issued for the Littleton location for operating without a valid license and violating the Pet Animal Care Facility Act. Among the things SeaQuest needed to do in order to come into compliance was the reduce the number of birds at the facility to below 30.
"But we're committed to cooperating with all the authorities as we're doing currently, we're in full compliance with all of them," said Covino.
Covino, a former broker, is now running aquariums in several states including Utah, Nevada, Texas and Colorado. His brother was sent to prison in 2013 after illegally obtaining and shipping spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks for an aquarium in Idaho.
The Covino brothers operated an aquarium in Oregon called the Portland Aquarium. It was also the subject of protests and questions about animal welfare.
"I absolutely do not think that they even care about the animals in the slightest, let alone have their best interest at heart," said Jennifer Brownlee, a mom who started the Boycott Portland Aquarium Facebook page.
When Denver7 reached out to the Colorado Department of Agriculture again, an employee responded, "We continue to receive complaints about SeaQuest and we investigate complaints."