The Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission took no action on SeaWorld's and the Secretary's requests to review the decision reached in May by Administrative Law Judge Ken S. Welsch. While Judge Welsch's decision substantially reduced the classification and fine of the citation, it also contained errors in fact and the law. SeaWorld will decide within the next 60 days whether to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. SeaWorld remains dedicated to the safety of its employees and well being of its animals.
Our previous responses:
a. While the company views it as a positive that both the classification of the violation, and the accompanying fine, were reduced substantially, we do disagree with some of the judge's interpretations. Our zoological staff is among the world's finest animal trainers, and the safety of our employees is a core value for SeaWorld and an area in which we never compromise.
b. We have maintained all along that the allegations of 'willful' were meritless and are vindicated that the judge agreed. The judge also unequivocally stated that SeaWorld is a "safety-conscious employer" with a "highly-detailed and thorough" safety training program.
c. It also is important to note that the judge also agreed that demands of care for these animals require our zoological team to work in close physical proximity. We have maintained all along that this is the safest way to care for these animals. The decision applies only to show performances, a small fraction of the total time our trainers and whales spend interacting. The decision does not apply to interactions during husbandry, exercise, learning, play and relationship activities.
d. The Shamu show continues today as it has been since February 24, 2010. SeaWorld's killer whale program is a model for marine zoological facilities around the world, and the additions we made in the last two years in the areas of personal safety, facility design and communication have enhanced this program further still. We have already added notable safety measures since that time, including barriers and proximity changes, and continue to progress on developing prototypical technology such as a lifting pool floor.