Use of Dolphins I was extremely disappointed to see “Communing With Dolphins” in the January 2016 issue. Prior to becoming a speech-language pathologist, I was a marine mammal trainer and worked with dolphins and whales at SeaWorld. The inappropriate exploitation of wild animals and the exploitation of the families that are taken in ... Inbox
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Inbox  |   April 01, 2016
Use of Dolphins
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Professional Issues & Training / International & Global / Inbox
Inbox   |   April 01, 2016
Use of Dolphins
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.IN3.21042016.5
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.IN3.21042016.5
I was extremely disappointed to see “Communing With Dolphins” in the January 2016 issue. Prior to becoming a speech-language pathologist, I was a marine mammal trainer and worked with dolphins and whales at SeaWorld. The inappropriate exploitation of wild animals and the exploitation of the families that are taken in by it should be considered unethical, not glorified. Dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) is no more effective than any intensive therapy that uses novelty to engage and reinforce. The same benefits would be gained via interactions with a puppy, a bunny or a reinforcing computer animation. A comprehensive article by neuroscientist and dolphin expert Lori Marino illuminates the problems surrounding research that is commonly cited in support of DAT.
Janet Flowers states dolphins used are “unreleasable.” But they cannot be released simply because they are captive! It’s a Catch-22. Some of the dolphins at Gulf World Marine Park were actually wild caught, and now are simply breeding machines. Please read Tim Zimmerman’s article regarding this specific facility for more information.
Programs like this encourage the continued demand for dolphins for captive uses, and fuel the drive hunts in Taiji, Japan. Don’t be fooled into thinking that what happens in that tiny tank in Florida doesn’t have larger, bloodier impact—it does. Please, let’s make the use of dolphins as props a thing of the past and focus on creative but ethical practices that will stand the test of time.
Carol Ray, Seattle

Ethical debates on keeping any animal in captivity elicit complex, passionate arguments, but the article states that Janet Flowers follows strict national and international standards and works only with legally non-releasable animals that are rescued and rehabilitated by the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program but cannot be released back into the wild. She also notes that she does not practice or condone dolphin-assisted therapy.

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April 2016
Volume 21, Issue 4