Marineland's owner John Holer has gone on the defensive following several recent reports from former trainers and conservation groups alleging the park's animals were kept in deplorable conditions. Holer is pursuing legal action against those involved.
A few days ago, Andrew Burns, a lawyer representing the Ontario-based marine park issued a five-page letter to Christina Santos, a former primary trainer for the facility's lone orca, Kiska. Burns, a lawyer with Hunt Partners LLP of Toronto, ordered Santos to retract her statement by last Friday at 4:30 p.m or face a potential $1 million lawsuit for damages.
In October, Santos (33), revealed in a Toronto Starinterview with Linda Diebel and Liam Casey, that the female whale Kiska, had been bleeding "on and off" since July and that the bleeding had been getting progressively worse. Video of Kiska oozing a trail of blood was also obtained by the newspaper.
The legal letter received by Santos on Nov. 2, accused the former trainer of making statements "in complete carelessness, reckless and/or negligent disregard for the truth." See The Star's story published on Nov. 2.
But Santos has refused to retract her comments, and told The Star:
They are putting words in my mouth and I feel like I am being bullied . . . it is ridiculous.
Santos and Phil Demers, also a former senior trainer, have now been forced to establish a donation site to cover legal fees. "In light of Marineland's increased threats of legal action against Christine Santos" writes Demers, "we have retained a lawyer and have committed to defending against their intimidating tactics."
Neither of the former trainers are prepared to back down. "All of the allegations of abuse can be substantiated in a court of law and forevermore be on the public record," Demers added, "but only if we are able to see this expensive process through. Please help us bring justice to both the whistle blowers and most importantly the animals of Marineland."
Yesterday, Marineland Animal Defense (MAD), an organization headed by Dylan Powell, received a Cease & Desist letter from Burns for "harassment, intimidation and threats." MAD has long campaigned against the conditions forced upon the animals at the park, and the group was part of a massive protest at the facility on October 7.
The letter, that MAD has posted on its website "without comment for now", is also threatening legal action against Powell directly if MAD does not cease and desist all contact with Marineland employees through "illegal picketing, social media, Facebook or Twitter or e-mail."
MAD claimed that the husband of a former Marineland vet attempted bribery and misrepresented his intentions:
On September 30th, 2012, “Joseph Mergl,” the name of both the husband and son of now notorious Marineland Vet June Mergl wrote to the radio program Animal Voices, after featuring Dylan Powell on their program. Joseph Mergl misrepresented himself as a girl named “Jessica” and asked for information about Dylan under the guise of wanting to donate a large sum of money to Marineland Animal Defense.
John Holer, the owner of Marineland for 51 years, has always denied that there were any problems with his animals at the park. "All of our facilities are legal" Holer told The Star back in August.
Zoocheck Canada has been highlighting the plight of Marineland's orca for years. Since 1970, Zoocheck said, the park has exhibited 29 killer whales.
Today, Marineland has just one remaining orca, 35-year-old Kiska. Santos claimed during her interview with The Star, that the whale "spends her days swimming listlessly and scratching parts of her body against the sides and sharp fiberglass grates that run the circumference of her Friendship Cove pool."