Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have suspended the license of the SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium at a Jefferson County mall after dozens of complaints and reports of injuries at the facility since it opened last summer.
The department held a hearing for SeaQuest and decided to suspend the aquarium's license for two years after it had "numerous violation episodes and failed to adhere to several of the conditions of their state licensure," according to a CPW news release. The suspension applies to species at the aquarium that are regulated by the CPW.
The aquarium plans to stay open at the Southwest Plaza mall and replace those species with those that don't require licensing by the CPW, the department said.
SeaQuest spokesperson Elsa MacDonald said the suspension dealt with regulated animals and said the facility had to send some animals -- including otters, capybara, kookaburra, some fish, a sloth and three types of snakes -- to their sister facilities, which the spokesperson said people weren't able to interact with.
“SeaQuest Littleton lost the Regulated Animals license which impacted a few exhibits that didn't involve guest interaction,” MacDonald said in a statement. “Since this change took place, we have made some changes and are happy to welcome Peking ducks, Asian water monitors, and Savannah cats - all of which our guests can see, touch and feed! This change will enhance the guest experience and truly provide an ultimate interactive experience.”
But CPW spokesperson Jason Clay sayd he was told by the wildlife officer there were "approximately a dozen different species regulated by us that equaled a couple hundred animals."
The suspension marked another issue for SeaQuest, which also has locations in Utah, Texas, Nevada, California and Florida.
Shortly after the aquarium opened at Southwest Plaza, the Colorado Department of Agriculture served SeaQuest a cease and desist order for operating without a valid license and in violation of the Pet Animal Care Facility Act.
The order came after questions about the conditions in which the animals were cared for – specifically the birds and some of the fish kept at the facility.
SeaQuest complied with the order , which required the aquarium to reduce the number of birds in its facility, and remained open.
In February, Denver7 obtained documents from the state showing at least 30 reports of injuries at the aquarium from June of 2018 through January.
The injuries ranged from minor scratches to other cases that appeared to be more serious. SeaQuest is required to self-report any injuries to the state as a part of requirement to maintain its current license.
Reports showed an incident where a shark bit a guest and where stingray barb was stuck in someone's hand. During another incident, documents showed an iguana jumped onto another person's chest and clawed at their mouth, causing them to bleed.