|SeaWorld has lost another round in its battle to put trainers back in the water with killer whales. Source: AAP|
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc has lost another round in its long-running legal battle to put animal trainers back in the water with killer whales.
By a 2-1 vote, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on Friday upheld a citation levelled against SeaWorld in 2010 by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which accused SeaWorld of failing to ensure the safety of its killer-whale trainers.
The agency recommended that SeaWorld never again be permitted to have its trainers perform in close, unprotected contact with its killer whales, unless separated by a physical barrier or a sufficient amount of distance - a standard that would effectively make it impossible for trainers to swim with the giant marine predators.
The citation arose from a six-month investigation into SeaWorld's killer-whale program that OSHA conducted following the February 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was violently killed by the six-ton orca Tilikum.
The whale, the largest in SeaWorld's collection, had been involved in two previous human deaths.
The US Court of Appeals is the last stop before the US Supreme Court.
SeaWorld representatives were not immediately available to say whether the company intends to appeal to the nation's highest court.