SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Protesters rallied in Scottsdale Saturday morning to keep dolphins from coming to the Arizona desert. Between 100 and 200 people turned up to voice their concerns.

Dolphinaris, a swim-with-the-dolphins attraction is nearing the end of construction near Talking Stick Resort just east of Loop 101.

Empty the Tanks, a marine mammal activist group organized the protest with the hopes of bringing attention to what they believe are cruel and unnatural conditions for marine mammals.

“The behind-the-scenes of what happens to make sure these animals are here on display -- it's absolutely gruesome and disgusting,” said animal activist Meagan Gipson.

Another protester, Anna Kiley, told 12 News she took on the cause after leaving her job as a dolphin trainer at Sea World.

“After a short time working there, I realized if I cared about animals as much as I said I did, I couldn't continue to support that practice,” Kiley said. “So since then, I've left and made it my mission to help others feel the same.”

12 News spoke with the General Manager of Dolphinaris on Friday.

Dr. Grey Stafford says he's spent more than 25 years researching this topic, half of which was with the Wildlife World Zoo.

“All of the animals were born into human care,” said Stafford. “They have only known the love and care of their trainers their entire lives and of guests they have met along the way,” he said.

As for the protesters, they have no plans to back down. An online petition to stop Dolphinaris from opening now has almost 120,000 signatures.

Dolphinaris sent 12 News the following statement in response to the protest:

Dolphinaris Arizona respects that everyone has right to an opinion. We hope those opinions are based on peer-reviewed science and accurate information. Decades of data prove dolphins in US licensed facilities live as long or longer in human care than animals in the wild.

Dolphinaris Arizona dolphins have all been born and raised in human care.

The dolphins are provided the highest quality food, an enriching habitat, and daily care by a team of professional behaviorists and water quality experts, plus medical care by a full-time marine mammal veterinarian who is available 24/7.

All of our interactions with the dolphins only use positive reinforcement. Dolphinaris Arizona, like all Dolphinaris facilities, follow the highest national and international standards. Like all licensed zoos, we are subject to USDA oversight.
A preview of Dolphinaris, a swim-with-the-dolphins attraction to open in Scottsdale. 
A preview of Dolphinaris, a swim-with-the-dolphins attraction to open in Scottsdale.