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Rules offered for swimming with dolphins

September 10, 1998
Webposted at 2:30 PM EDT

By Environmental News Network staff

New standards are being proposed to ensure that the bottlenose dolphins used in these programs are handled and cared for in a humane manner.
(ENN) -- Standards have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate swim-with-the-dolphin programs, but a group that has pushed for the rules isn't happy.

There are six swim-with-the-dolphins programs registered in the U.S. that give tourists the chance to interact with the cetaceans.

The standards are being proposed to ensure that the bottlenose dolphins used in these programs are handled and cared for in a humane manner. The rules address several issues including handling, space requirements and training.

"These new regulations will help us ensure the safety and well-being of marine mammals used in swim-with-the-dolphin programs," said Michael V. Dunn, assistant secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. "Until now, there have been no program-specific regulations. We believe it is in the best interests of the animals to add such regulations."

A swim-with-the-dolphin program is defined by the regulations as any human-cetacean interactive program in which a member of the public enters the primary enclosure, in which a SWTD-designated cetacean is housed, to interact with the animal. This interaction includes wading, swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving in the enclosure. Feeding and petting pools are excluded.

The Humane Society, who has been asking the USDA for months to put the regulations into place, believes the rules have not been developed with the dolphin's best interest in mind. The group says that the size of the pools permitted by the USDA is too small and that the regulations do not give the dolphins enough space to retreat if they do not want to be around humans.

The Humane Society also believes that the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service allows too much human interaction and disagrees with the rule that limits the people-to-dolphin ratio to 3:1.

The Agriculture Department, however, said that stricter requirements were not necessary and would pose an unnecessary burden on swim-with-dolphin businesses.

The effective date of the amendments is Oct. 5 and they were published in the Sept. 4 Federal Register.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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