Seventeen Sea Lions Poisoned At Pacific Marine Mammal Center In Laguna Beach

"How could anyone do something so horrible?", the question just about everyone at Laguna Beach's Pacific Marine Mammal Center were asking. Why would anyone intentionally pour chlorine into one of the pools holding rescued sea lions and seals. Volunteers opened the center last Monday morning to an overwhelming odor of chlorine, and seventeen rescued animals huddling outside of one of the pools.

Veterinarians have been treating the pups for burned corneas, and while it seems most will recover, Laguna Beach police are investigating. "All their filtering equipment was working properly, even the levels of their chlorine discharge system were normal" says Sgt. Tim Kleiser, "that was the only pool that was affected, so we think this is intentional.

The Center's Executive Director Keith Matassa tells Fox 11 that they are overwhelmed with sea lions and seals sickened from the warmer than usual temperatures in the ocean. So far this year, they have rescued over 400 dehydrated, starving animals, when the usual number would have been about a hundred for the same time. He adds that the sickened animals are recuperating, but can only wonder "who in their right mind would want to hurt these pups? Look at them they are babies!" he says, shaking his head.

Because they are protected by Federal Law, though, this is not a simple case of animal cruelty. Whoever is responsible, could face jail time, and a fee of $20,000 per injured animal. The Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has announced a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible.

Laguna Beach Police is asking anyone with information to call them at (949) 497-0377.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hotline for tips is (800) 853-1964.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center can be reached at (940) 494-3050.

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