Poll Reveals Arizonans Oppose Captive Dolphin Swim Programs

Phoenix—A statewide poll released today by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Animal Defense League of Arizona (ADLA), revealed that more Arizonans oppose than support the practice of keeping dolphins in captivity for interactive programs and entertainment. The release follows the October 15 opening of Dolphinaris, near Scottsdale, Arizona, and is the first public opinion poll to specifically gauge attitudes about keeping dolphins in captivity in Arizona. The new entertainment facility, owned by Mexican-based company Ventura Entertainment, features swim-with-dolphin activities.

Nearly half of the 700 polled adults (49%) oppose holding dolphins in tanks so that people can pay to swim with them, compared to only a third (32%) who support it. The rest were undecided. Opposition extended across gender, with both women (55%) and men (42%) expressing resistance to the practice. Perhaps most significantly, the poll showed that of women ages 25 to 45, who greatly influence family vacation and trip decisions, 50% oppose pay-to-swim dolphin attractions. That number includes 30% who say they are strongly opposed to the practice.

“Although strong public attitudes against keeping orcas in captivity have emerged over the last few years and have led to changes in places like SeaWorld, this poll shows the public may feel the same about keeping other whale and dolphin species in captivity,” stated Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for AWI. “The opening of a captive dolphin program—in the desert, no less—is a step backwards for the United States, as the country has not seen the construction of a new captive dolphin attraction in 10 years.”

“Every new swim-with-the-dolphins facility perpetuates an inhumane, profit-driven industry,” stated Courtney Vail, a local wildlife biologist who represents both AWI and ADLA. “These programs rely upon captures from the wild abroad, the transport of animals over long distances, and the potential for injury and disease transmission to the public. Most importantly, these programs condemn these intelligent mammals to an unnatural and socially, psychologically, and physically diminished quality of life, regardless of how long they are able to survive in these conditions.”

“Understanding that our outreach in Arizona is really just beginning to take shape, these initial results reflect the public’s growing disaffection with this outdated practice,” stated Stephanie Nichols-Young, executive director of ADLA. “Dolphinaris has said that it will be siting another captive facility elsewhere in the United States; these numbers suggest that it might not be a wise move, as public attitudes continue to reflect waning enthusiasm for the use of animals in entertainment.”