As construction for a new aquarium in San Antonio kicks off, details on the owner’s shady past are surfacing.
Ammon Covino co-owns aquariums in Austin, Portland and Boise with his brother Vince Covino. The pair plans to open the San Antonio Aquarium in December of 2014; this despite the fact that Ammon is under investigation in Portland for the deaths of 220 marine animals.
“We were aware of those issues and were assured by the developer that the issues are being addressed and the facility here would be operated at the highest standard and in a professional manner,” said Manny Longoria, city manager for Leon Valley in Texas about the investigation and Ammon Covino’s prison sentence for illegally shipping sharks and stingrays from Florida to Portland. “We will be very, very diligent in ensuring the aquarium is operating at that level.”
In the Portland investigation, the Oregon Humane Society looked into accusations of mistreatment that included starvation, animals being kept at high temperatures and animal-on-animal attacks. The agency did not find “any evidence to charge on” and according to Barbara Baugnon, marketing communications director with the Oregon Humane Society, the investigation has been put on hold until new information emerges.
As part of Ammon’s prison sentence of one year, he was also banned from working with wildlife for two years. He is not officially involved with the San Antonio Aquarium but “may become director or employee down the road,” his brother told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday.
Vince Covino also claims Ammon’s sentence was a result of the company from which he imported the sharks not having a permit to ship the animals to another state and that the 220 deaths are based on an erroneous report.
“The report of the dead fish includes a log showing a snail dying of ‘congestive heart failure’ and another fish dying of ‘depression.’ It lists feeder fish that are, of course, intended to be food just as they are in the ocean,” Vince Covino wrote in an email to the San Antonio Express-News. “We do not employ a cardiologist nor a psychiatrist, nor do snails have hearts. We also feel very confident that we always have and always will provide a healthy and safe environment for our animals.”
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