Lori Marino's Open Letter
March 15, 2007
AN OPEN LETTER TO:
City Council of Vodnjan, Croatia,
Ministry of Culture,
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management
I am writing to respectfully address the issue of dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) at the dolphinarium in Vodnjan. I am a faculty member at Emory University and have studied dolphins and other marine mammals for over seventeen years. I have published sixty-five papers on dolphin intelligence and behavior. Also, I have investigated the claims made by proponents of DAT.
Over several years I have studied every published paper on DAT and can tell you with confidence that there is no scientific validity to DAT. The methods used by practitioners of DAT are not scientifically sound and the studies are seriously flawed. I have included with this letter two of my peer-reviewed published papers on DAT which detail all of the weaknesses and problems with this practice. Also included is a position paper I have written with my co-author Scott Lilienfeld which summarizes the more general problems with DAT. I would like to repeat in the strongest terms that there is no scientific evidence that DAT works to treat any of the conditions (e.g., autism, learning disabilities, muscular dystrophies, etc.) its practitioners claim to treat.
Given that there is no evidence that DAT is successful in treating any illnesses, it is troubling to me that Croatian authorities are considering developing such a program. There are many reasons to be concerned on ethical grounds. First, desperate parents of sick children will be made to pay high fees for a therapy that does not have any validity. They will be fooled. Second, children will be placed in a situation that could be extremely dangerous for them. Dolphins are large, powerful animals and there are many reports of people being injured by dolphins while swimming with them in a captive setting. You would be placing these children at great risk. Third, given my expertise in dolphins I can tell you without reservation that dolphins suffer in captivity. Dolphins are highly intelligent, self-aware, emotional, and social creatures that have strong family ties. – just like us. When dolphins are taken from the wild the stress often kills them. And in captivity they lead an impoverished life that does not resemble their normal life in any way. As a result, they are subject to extreme psychological and emotional stress and boredom, and often die at a younger age than in their natural habitat. Therefore, a DAT program would be contributing to the suffering of these animals.
I implore you to bring the development of this dolphin – assisted therapy facility to an end. There is no scientific evidence for its validity and there is an abundance of evidence that it is dangerous for humans and dolphins alike.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time and attention.
Lori Marino, Ph.D
Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program