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SPCA urges public to join dolphin fight

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) yesterday urged Tourism Minister Dr. Ewart Brown not to back the controversial Dolphin Oasis without guidelines about the treatment of dolphins.

And the Society is calling on members of the public to join its campaign to block the dolphin park planned for Sinky Bay on the South Shore in Southampton.

Dolphin Oasis? owners Martin and Lynn Hassell have appealed the rejection of the plan by the Development Applications Board to Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield.

Copies of e-mails obtained by from Dr. Brown to the Hassells showed that the project had his full support.

Dr. Brown told the Hassells: ?I had already decided to support your effort and to rip apart the arguments of those who say that others should be excluded where they have been permitted.?

A second e-mail said: ?Please prepare a stinging rebuke of these objectors while congratulating the new group for putting pop and sizzle into the tourism product!?

But yesterday, SPCA shelter chairman Dr. Andrew Madeiros said: ?(Dr. Brown) needs to understand just because something appears to be good for tourism does not mean its a good idea.

?Nor should he ignore the negative press,? he said. ?Tourists call us and complain and say they are concerned.

?It will be found in a very, very prominent location attached to a hotel,? he said. ?Some may come to the Island especially for it. But maybe there are others who find it here and find it upsetting ... Although it is a tourism product, it falls under the Environment Ministry.?

He said concerns both real and perceived should be addressed first, ?rather than get pushed into it just because tourists like it?.

Therefore, the SPCA have asked the public to send their comments to them to include in their submission to the Planning Department.

The SPCA is the sole legal objector to the Dolphin Oasis application because it was the only organisation to get submit its objection within the legal time limit.

In December 2003, the SPCA fielded many calls from both locals and visitors about Dolphin Quest in Dockyard, he said.

The charity flew down its own expert from Boston, Lou Garibaldi, to look at Dolphin Quest.

However, while he was on the Island, Dolphin Oasis put in its initial application to Planning.

Mr. Garibaldi, looked at Dolphin Oasis? application and found there was little technical information.

Now local and international environmental groups are submitting information to the SPCA with include in its arguments for the appeal.

Mr. Madeiros said there needed to be better guidelines about keeping dolphins in Bermuda.

?We need local laws and regulations that lay out clear guidelines for the keeping of animals,? he said. ?And there should be licensing facilities for dolphins.

?There are laws for keeping horses, laws for keeping dogs, there is no reason, when this is a commercial venture, they should not have a law.?

He said at present there were only ?international standards? about the depth of water the dolphins are allowed to be kept in, but his inspectors would be unable to check whether the depth had become shallower, nor were there any local laws in place to enforce it.

Once Sinky Bay is dredged local agencies like the SPCA are going to be ones answering the phone calls he said.?We have concerns,? he said. ?We think there are things that can go wrong.?