Thank Zoo for Closing Touch Tank After 21 Animal Deaths

Target: Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Goal: Thank the zoo for closing its touch tanks after 21 animals died.

Eighteen stingrays and three sharks suffocated to death after technical problems lead to the breakdown of a touch tank’s oxygenation machine. The John Ball Zoo had a touch tank where visitors were invited to touch a number of sea animals including sting rays and small sharks. The shallow tank was livable due to pumps that infiltrated the water with oxygen and kept the animals breathing.

Touch tanks are also a breeding ground for bacteria. Animals in these shallow exhibits cannot escape the constant human contact which is scary for the animal and also leads to bacteria filling the tanks. Touch tanks are sensitive systems and a single malfunction can cause mass death like it did in this case.

Instead of reopening the tank, zoo officials decided to keep it closed. Despite the touch tank being one of the zoo’s most popular attractions, officials stated they understand they are responsible for these animals and they do not want to see another incident like this one. Sign this petition and thank the zoo for not reopening the touch tank.


Dear Mr. D’Arienzo,

Recently, your zoo had an incident wherein 21 animals died–18 stingrays and three sharks. These animals were confined in a shallow touch tank and suffocated because the pump that infiltrates the water with oxygen malfunctioned.

Instead of reopening the touch tank once the technical problems were solved, you decided to keep it closed. Despite the touch tank being one of your most popular exhibits, you made it clear that these animals are worth more than profit. For that, I thank you.

Animals confined in touch tanks are unable to escape the constant onslaught of human hands. This can be quite scary for the animals. In addition, all the different hands going in and out of the tank leads to a lot of bacteria. Touch tanks are a disaster waiting to happen. Thank you for deciding to keep yours closed.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Stingray City

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  1. Joan Pool says:

    I have seen a touch tank in calif. with rays, and they are so obviously stressed.they throw themselves against the wall where they go in & out when it’s open. Kids yelling, throwing things and most parents are oblivious. These cruel things should never have been permitted.

  2. Thank goodness common sense has prevailed! Touch tanks are just one of the stupidest ideas ever! Kids and parents Pawing and harassing the poor animals!
    Just torture for any animal! The zoo is torture for any animal. they are free creatures and should not be made to earn money for creatins who would abuse and abandon and be careless about their welfare.

  3. carol davidson says:

    Who ever had this idea originally is a sadistic twit!

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