Lolita is an orca held captive at the Miami Seaquarium in the smallest orca tank in North America. The following is a timeline of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to free Lolita.

For a more in-depth overview of our work to free Lolita, read our feature article.

Timeline of Events

  • January 12, 2018—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the Endangered Species Act lawsuit. While the court’s decision is disappointing, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is fighting to enact HB 1305, the Florida Orca Protection Act during the 2018 Florida legislative session. The passage of this law would ensure Lolita is the last orca to suffer in the Miami Seaquarium.
  • July 1, 2016—The Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition file an appeal of the trial court’s dismissal of Endangered Species Act lawsuit.
  • June 1, 2016—A judge rules against the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA’s Endangered Species Act case to free Lolita. Both groups vow to continue fighting for justice.
  • May 18, 2016—The Animal Legal Defense Fun and a coalition sue the USDA for its licensing of the Miami Seaquarium after ownership of the facility transferred in 2014. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) does not allow exhibitors’ licenses to transfer upon change of ownership nor may licenses be granted to facilities not in compliance with the AWA.
  • July 20, 2015—A coalition including ALDF, PETA, Orca Network, and Orca Network director Howard Garrett hit the Miami Seaquarium with a lawsuit contending that the facility’s imprisonment of suffering orca Lolita constitutes a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
  • March 24, 2015—ALDF, PETA, Orca Network present oral arguments in the appeal of their lawsuit challenging the USDA’s approval of the Miami Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act license.
  • February 4, 2015—NMFS announces a rule granting Lolita the same protections afforded to her family in the wild under the Endangered Species Act.
  • June 2014—ALDF appeals a district court’s decision that the USDA did not violate the law by renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s exhibitor license under the Animal Welfare Act.
  • March 25, 2014—A judge dismisses ALDF’s federal case challenging the legality of the Miami Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act license to display Lolita.
  • January 24, 2014—NMFS proposes a rule to include Lolita within the protections afforded to the Southern Resident population of killer whales under the Endangered Species Act.
  • April 25, 2013—NMFS finds that ALDF, PETA, and Orca Network’s petition for Lolita’s inclusion in endangered species protection merits consideration.
  • January 23, 2013—ALDF, PETA, Orca Network, and others petition NMFS to protect Lolita under the Endangered Species Act.

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