Animal advocates protest SeaQuest at New Jersey mall over alleged abuse

Animal advocates are loaded for bear to shut down a strange animal enclosure inside a New Jersey mall.

Last week, an undercover Post team visited SeaQuest at Woodbridge Center, which operates under permits from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. It bills itself as a “petting zoo aquarium feeding experience!”

The Peking ducks paddled through murky water that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since the Year of the Pig.

Most exhibits had concrete floors and lacked any instructional “dos and don’ts” signage.

At “Parakeet Paradise,” patrons young and old are given mill and seed to hold, which attract a swarm of 120 hungry — activists say “starved” — lovebirds. A staffer instructs the adults and kids to stay seated on a bench and slide their feet so as to not squash the scurrying Australian birds.

A 12-foot python seemed far too big for its enclosure.

A group of hybrid “Bengal cats,”  confessed one staffer, “can bite and they do scratch.” Kids, who don’t always remain seated, were within paws-length of the housecat-sized animals.

Last week 35 protesters showed up outside the mall to call attention to conditions unfit for fowl, fish or feline.

“Animals do not belong in a mall,” fumed Whitney Malin, of South Orange, N.J., who started an online petition to shutter the Woodbridge SeaQuest that has garnered nearly 14,000 signatures. “These aren’t toys. They are exploiting animals for entertainment to make money.”

Malin likened SeaQuest, which opened in late November, to a “Chuckie Cheese with real, live animals.”

Denise Morgan of Sayreville, N.J., runs the Facebook page Shut Down SeaQuest.

“I won’t stop until SeaQuest is shut down all over America,” she told The Post.

SeaQuest seems to generate howls of protest everywhere it puts down stakes. It has eight locations in the U.S.

In Littleton, Col., it reportedly failed two-state animal-safety inspections and was the subject of an undercover investigation by the local Fox news affiliate which found “a murky tank going through a bacteria bloom; smelly, filthy enclosures including a capybara pen; and an escaped lizard wandering the concrete floor with a stampede of excited customers threatening its safety.” In Lynchburg, Va., residents petitioned to prevent SeaQuest from opening.

On Jan. 2, Goats of Anarchy confirmed the Woodbridge location had closed its goat exhibit and surrendered Cora, Roxy, and Stella to the non-profit group. The trio currently resides at a goat sanctuary in Hunterdon County.

Two upstate sanctuaries are poised to have SeaQuest surrender their hairless guinea pigs and Silkie chickens.

Vince Covino, the aquarium’s owner and CEO, defended his zoo to The Post, saying, “All exhibits are inspected regularly by many federal, state, and local regulatory bodies.  A local licensed veterinarian supervises the work of a team of dozens of full time animal lovers to ensure all animals receive all the enrichment, nutrition, and care appropriate for their well being.”

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency “has issued no fines or violations to SeaQuest for species managed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.”

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