AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monday Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission will discuss recommending new rules related to animals that would impact the Austin Aquarium.
According to city documents, if the commission approves the measure, it would request the Austin City Council consider amending city code to specifically target a for-profit zoo or aquarium. It would ban public interaction with wild animals, when a facility isn’t accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
It would also require any animal bite or scratch to be reported and the animal to be quarantined. It would also call for $200 fines.
In May, a woman told KXAN she was bit and scratched while in an “animal encounter” room at the Austin Aquarium. The exhibit allowed her to pet a lemur under the supervision of an animal handler.
In response to the incident, the aquarium previously told KXAN in a statement that it’s conducting an internal investigation to gather and find out more information to prevent any future incidents.
“We have over a million people visiting our facility a year. During that time, we have had a minimal number of people who have had any sort of incident, such as a nip or scratch from an animal that we have on-site,” the statement continues. “We would like to note, in past situations, we have seen it is typically due to a lack of guests not following the clear USDA guidelines we provide at the beginning of each animal encounter by our trained staff… We would like to extend our sincere thoughts, we want everyone to be safe.”
The Austin Aquarium, located off of U.S. Highway 183, is a for-profit aquarium. It is not required to be accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In addition to marine life, the facility, on its website, touts lemur and sloth encounters.
It is monitored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Records show the department has noted a handful of incidents related to animal attacks involving lemurs and kinkajous.
In previous KXAN reporting, the aquarium said its “animals are exotic, and [it has] the utmost care, regulations, and guidelines. We pride ourselves in the ability to offer these hands-on experiences to all guests to inspire future generations to understand how important conservation is to the planet we share.”