CT agency looking into Trumbull SeaQuest’s regulation compliance

The SeaQuest interactive aquarium at Westfield Trumbull

The SeaQuest interactive aquarium at Westfield Trumbull

Donald Eng / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — A state agency has contacted the SeaQuest interactive aquarium at the Westfield Trumbull mall about its compliance with state regulations.

Will Healey, director of communications for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, confirmed in an email that “DEEP has notified SeaQuest of issues relating to their compliance with state regulations. This is an ongoing issue and we cannot provide additional comments at the present time.”

He didn’t elaborate on the alleged issues or which state regulations they concerned. Kelly Bistriceanu, SeaQuest’s national marketing director, also only addressed the issue broadly.

“We cooperate with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regularly to assess potential issues as they arise and ensure SeaQuest’s compliance with state regulations,” she said.

Other SeaQuests nationwide have also been under scrutiny over the years, including the one in Littleton, Colo., which had its license suspended by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2019. However, it is still operating and received a new license through the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act, which administered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Agriculture cited Trumbull SeaQuest, alleging multiple violations. The report mentions, among other problems, an incident in which a child was allegedly scratched by a kinkajou during an encounter at the facility.

When reached Friday, Bistriceanu said the incident resulted in a “very mild scratch” that the staff promptly treated.

“SeaQuest does hundreds of exotic animal encounters like this with our guests every week,” she said. “Although incidents like this do happen, they are extremely rare.”

In addition to the incident with the kinkajou, the USDA report mentioned that the wooden door frame in the African crested porcupine enclosure was damaged and in need of repair and that the kinkajou enclosure was not properly cleaned.

The Trumbull SeaQuest has been cited before. Last year, a routine USDA inspection unearthed four violations that had occurred over the past year, including a child bitten by an animal and an employee hitting an otter with a metal bowl.

The town also sued Seaquest last year, claiming the company owed $167,158 in back taxes, interest and fees. The company filed suit against the town, claiming the $4.2 million assessment was “excessive.”

The two sides settled their dueling lawsuits earlier this year, with Judge Dale Radcliffe writing that “the Town acknowledges that receipt of payments shows full satisfaction of the Grandlist of October 1, 2019 and the Grandlist of October 1, 2020.”

Based in Idaho, SeaQuest operates 10 locations across the country, including one that opened late last year in Georgia. Attractions include animal feeding, walk-in aviaries, snorkeling with marine animals and hands-on encounters with sloths, otters, stingrays and others.