Company Opening Interactive Aquarium in Folsom has Dark Reputation, Protesters Say

FOLSOM -- A new interactive aquarium set to open in Folsom this September is creating some controversy.

A group of protesters says the company SeaQuest has a bad reputation in other cities it operates aquariums in.

On the corner of East Bidwell Street and Broadstone Parkway passersby might have seen something strange Sunday afternoon -- a shark out of water. Lauryn Goodspeed was wearing a shark costume to bring awareness to what's going in at the Palladio Shopping Center this fall, a SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium.

"They have a pretty bad track record and we're out here trying to spread awareness to the public about who they are and what their history is," Goodspeed said.

That history includes alleged animal abuse at the other SeaQuest locations.

Goodspeed says the company used to run the Portland Aquarium. In 2013, protesters in Oregon accused that facility of killing more than 200 animals. It closed in 2016.

But in 2017, a former employee of the Las Vegas location claimed another 200 animals died there.

"Past employees who work there saying the animals were intentionally underfed so that they would eat out of humans' hands," Goodspeed told FOX40.

The CEO of SeaQuest told FOX40's Las Vegas affiliate last year the claims were untrue and came from a disgruntled employee. However, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Animal Cruelty Unit did issue minor infractions.

Goodspeed says SeaQuest is not accredited like most aquariums.

"They're not associated with any sort of ecological protection industry," she said. "They're literally a for-profit petting zoo."

Construction on the aquarium has already begun and it is set to open in September.

So far Goodspeed's pleas to management at the Palladio have gone unanswered. "The response that they've given us officially is that they don't want to deal with it anymore and that any complaints that we have about SeaQuest need to go to SeaQuest."

That's why she's protesting on the street, encouraging others to sign a petition to ban SeaQuest from the area.

Goodspeed said her group has been growing, now with more than 300 likes on Facebook. She plans to continue protesting once a week throughout the summer.

FOX40 did reach out to SeaQuest for a response to some of these allegations, as well as management at the Palladio Shopping Center. They have yet to respond.