VIRGINIA KEY, FLA. (WSVN) - Animal rights activists made a passionate plea to close Miami Seaquarium’s doors on the day it was supposed to shut down for good, but the Virginia Key attraction kept its gates open as it continues to fight a possible eviction from Miami-Dade County.

The marine park kept its gates open all of Sunday, despite their lease termination deadline from the county.

After bringing decades of joy to so many, the seaquarium has been under fire from startling findings of animal neglect in inspections conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Outside the seaquarium, activists from South Florida Animal Rights and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals came together and voiced their opposition to the park remaining open.

“Shame on you for what you do!” demonstrators chanted as they held up signs.

“Over 250 marine animals have died since this park opened, so today is a funeral,” said Holly with the international nonprofit World Animal Protection.

Over the years, the death of several animals, such as Lolita the orca and Bud the sea lion, have put all eyes on the park.

On Sunday, ZooTampa at Lowry Park posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that Juliet the manatee died.

Juliet was brought to Miami Seaquarium in 1958. Just last year, she was transferred out.

“The tanks are disgusting and dirty, and The Dolphin Company is delusional,” said referring to the company that owns the seaquarium.

“These animals’ lives are in danger. It needs to be closed now, and PETA thanks the Miami-Dade County for moving forward with terminating the lease,” said Amanda Brody with PETA.

On Monday, the day after Miami-Dade’s lease with the Dolphin Company was to end, protesters appeared once again and among them was veterinarian Crystal Heath, an executive director with the nonprofit organization, Our Honor.

“It’s time we put our foot down. It’s time to get the animals the care they need before someone else dies,” she said. “I bought an annual pass mid-February so I could keep coming back here and keep checking on the animals.”

Animals who continue, Heath said, to go without proper care as the seaquarium fights to stay on Virginia Key. Dr. Heath citing poor water quality for fish and mammals, along with an agitated parrot in her visit Sunday.

“It’s a real concern, I mean, they’re allowed to stay open and continue to be scofflaws,” said Dr. Heath. “I hope the county step ins and stops this.”

The Dolphin Company filed a federal lawsuit on Friday alleging lease violations in their latest effort to fight the process. Company officials want a federal judge to block the eviction.

“I will just let my lawyers defend our rights, because it is offensive to speak about my people. My people are responsible for the animals, so let the lawyers do their work,” said Dolphin Company CEO Eduardo Albor back in March.

In a statement, Albor wrote:

“Filing this lawsuit against Miami-Dade County is a step we take with heavy hearts but clear minds, driven by our duty to protect our legacy and ensure our ability to continue making positive impacts on marine conservation.”

Eduardo Albor, The Dolphin Company

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and County Commissioner Raquel Regalado later released a statement that reads in part:

“It is our hope that The Dolphin Company is taking the necessary steps to vacate the premises, and to ensure that the transition is done in a safe and orderly manner.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado

“[The seaquarium] has built in 1955 and it shows,” stated Dr. Heath. “It’s time we repurpose it. It can be a rehab facility but it should not be a for-profit zoo anymore becuse its time is done.”

According to social media, the Miami Seaquarium will remain open despite this entire ordeal. Meanwhile, the county states that they will move forward with the eviction process.

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