Amid swirling controversy, Groupon, a popular online deal vendor, has cancelled all deals which were offered for the Austin Aquarium and is refunding all buyers.
Erin Yeager, a spokeswoman for Groupon, said the company constantly evaluates the deals they offer "in order to deliver the best experience for both customers and merchants," and sometimes chooses to cancel them.
An administrator of the Austin Aquarium’s Facebook page told Groupon users that the aquarium would still honor the Groupon rate, as long as the visitors brought a copy of their confirmation.
“We do not comment on Groupon’s policies," a spokesperson for the Austin Aquarium told YNN. "Our focus is moving forward with bringing a fantastic aquarium to the community. We are offering the same Groupon rate at the door to any customer that brings in proof of their Austin Aquarium Groupon purchase as well as free fish or shark food for the inconvenience.”
The Austin Aquarium has been in hot water since the Oregonian revealed that the Portland Aquarium, owned by the same people behind the planned Austin Aquarium, is being investigated by the Humane Society in Portland, Ore.
The investigation stems from a death report which was published last week by the Oregonian which logs the deaths of more than 200 animals in their care over a three-month period. The causes of deaths range between from starvation, animals stuck in pumps to depression.
According to the Oregonian, the report was smuggled out of the aquarium by a former employee who left because of animal mistreatment. Speaking to YNN last week, one of the owners, Vince Covino, said the employee was fired due to performance issues.
On Monday, the University of Texas halted a planned partnership between the university’s Texas Advanced Computing Center and the aquarium, according to KUT. School officials told the local news radio station that they want to make sure their partnerships promote the Center's mission and reputation.
Last month, Austin’s code compliance department cited the Austin Aquarium for not having an occupancy permit to house their fish and quarantine tanks.
In February, federal agents raided their Idaho aquarium. Ammon Covino, a co-owner of the aquariums, was arrested on federal charges saying he illegally purchased marine animals. Covino said the legal problem was with their vendor, who did not have a license to catch and transport those animals.