SeaWorld has caught a lot of flak for its treatment of animals. And even though the company routinely releases some animals back into the wild after rehabilitation, the fact remains that they have tons of critters that need caring for back at their exhibits.
Of course, not everyone sticks around long-term, and it might be partly due to how the organization treats the animals in its care.
But another factor is the stiff rules SeaWorld enforces. Working in customer service is no cakewalk, to begin with, but add strict procedures on feeding and caring for animals the size of a bus, and you have some unique challenges on your hands.
Plus, with the public involved in daily shows and exhibitions, the workers at SeaWorld also have to keep up certain appearances. Read on for 20 intense rules that govern their everyday actions—and your experience when (or if) you visit.
20 Don’t Tell Anyone The Animals Are Ill
One example of this rule comes from John Hargrove, a former trainer at SeaWorld. He revealed on Reddit that the sea lions and walruses at SeaWorld in California go blind because of bad quality water… But the workers weren’t allowed to say anything. Clearly, the public wasn't aware of the situation at the time, either...
19 Follow The Safety Guidelines, Always
One Reddit user, a former orca trainer, confirmed that he saw plenty of people get injured while working at SeaWorld—but that it wasn’t the animals’ fault. Instead, it was the workers not following the safety guidelines—a big no-no. There's a certain way workers must interact with the sea creatures—by the book.
18 No Criticizing The Company—Ever
One former trainer confirmed that SeaWorld trainers were not permitted to voice any concerns to superiors, or they could be fired. In short, you can’t talk bad on the company if you want to keep helping the animals—even if you're just dissing the stuffy shark costume you have to wear 40 hours a week.
17 Make Up Lies To Suit The Situation
A former SeaWorld employee wrote for Cracked that when something went wrong in an exhibit—like sting rays freaking out over a habitat move—the staff had to lie to visitors to justify the animals’ odd behavior. So instead of telling the truth—that the rays were trying to escape the water—they said they were giving birth.
16 Sunglasses Stay Off When Connecting With The Animals
Former trainer John Hargrave admitted on Reddit that SeaWorld got a lot of things wrong with their animal programs. But one positive rule was that trainers couldn’t wear sunglasses—because eye contact is so crucial for the animals, the trainers had to look them in the eye instead of hiding behind their lenses.
15 Stay Out Of The Orcas’ Water…
Two former SeaWorld trainers hosted an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit and confirmed that after the tragic passing of one orca trainer in 2010, SeaWorld mandated that their trainers could only do “dry shows”—not getting in the water with the animals. There were some unique mandates in the court case that ultimately decided the move, however.
14 … Unless The Show Is Over
The trainers who shared via Reddit explained that a court verdict stated trainers can’t get in the water during shows… But that the wording of the order didn’t ban them from getting in the water at other times. Oddly enough, most of the scary incidents that have happened with trainers happened outside of showtimes.
13 Don’t Anthropomorphize The Orcas
The two former trainers from SeaWorld—who also appeared in the film Blackfish—noted that the staff was always told not to anthropomorphize the animals. That is, they weren’t supposed to view the orcas as having emotions or feeling things. It seems like such a strange mandate since these creatures are so intelligent.
12 The Show Must Go On
One Redditor who used to work as an informational technology employee at SeaWorld claimed that “any… show tech who tells you he has not broken safety rules to get the show going is flat out lying.” In short, the show must go on—no matter what.
11 Security Checks Are Not Optional
The same IT Redditor explained that employee security checks were a requirement—going to and coming from work. He noted it took forever at the clock-out rush to actually leave SeaWorld. So as you stand in a long line to get in, remember that employees also share in your annoyance.
10 Keep Clear While Babies Are Born
Another Redditor who worked at SeaWorld for three years shared that no one was permitted to be around when a female orca was giving birth. Only the trainers, managers, and “stadium operations people” could enter the secure area. Of course, the babies were typically on display by the next day anyway.
9 You Must Pay For Visitor Benefits
While there probably aren’t rules against checking out the animals in their exhibits, one former SeaWorld employee and Redditor explained that no one got behind-the-scenes access for free—unless they were really close with the animal’s caretaker. So pay up if you want your kids (or yourself) to snuggle with penguins.
8 Keep Up With Orca Dental Care (But Don’t Tell)
John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, said via Reddit that orcas in captivity grind their teeth down due to stress. After the teeth grind down, trainers must drill into the tooth, then flush it daily—multiple times—to keep an abscess from forming. But at the same time, trainers aren’t supposed to publicize the whales’ dental issues.
7 You Can’t Be Friends With People Who Talk Bad About The Company
Multiple Redditors who used to work at SeaWorld say that if they want to keep in touch with former coworkers after publicizing their criticisms of the company, they have to keep things hush-hush. SeaWorld does not take kindly to former employees spreading information, however true it is or isn’t.
6 Don’t Share On Social Media
The former employee who wrote for Cracked explained that social media was strictly banned for employees—even if it was positive info. No worker was permitted to share anything about their work life—not online and not with friends (or even coworkers). And that includes sharing photos of themselves in the park and its inner workings.
5 The Media Can’t Know Details—Period
The same former employee writing for Cracked explained that when animals died from stress or poor conditions, no one knew—unless they were there when it happened. That’s how tight-lipped workers were, and that’s the way management wanted it—even when a baby dolphin passed away after being separated from his mom too soon.
4 You Need To Look Good (In A Wetsuit)
One former worker confirmed that although he had zero qualifications for working at SeaWorld, he got hired because he looked alright in a wetsuit. Further, the writer noted via Cracked that it seemed to be a trend—one senior trainer had no experience at all and only got hired because she was dating someone within the company.
3 Cleaning Is A Constant
Sure, lots of water means exposure to chlorine and chemicals. But the guy reporting for Cracked explained that in the fish house—where the animals’ food was kept—abrasive chemicals were necessary to sanitize the room multiple times per day. And no one told him there were such hazards beforehand.
2 No Standing In The Shade
That same Cracked writer? He had plenty of chafing and sunburns to complain about, too. But the sunburn was the worst part, because not only was there very little shade to be had, but you weren’t allowed to stand under it anyway (it's for the guests!). Instead, workers had to mingle in the water and elsewhere in the scorching sun.
1 You Can’t Talk Down To Guests—No Matter What
Our final story from the Cracked former employee at SeaWorld? A guest shoved a tawny frogmouth (bird) from its perch in front of him—and the worker “flipped” on the guest, calling him a name. Not only was the worker reprimanded, but the inebriated guest walked free. Clearly, a smile is the only thing you can offer to guests.
Sources: Cracked, Reddit