Picketers protest at Portland Aquarium

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A Sept. 1, 2013 protest, organized by activists from In Defense of Animals, is the latest chapter in the two-week controversy surrounding the Portland Aquarium. (KOIN 6 News)

MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — As the Oregon Humane Society investigates and criticism mounts, those inside the Portland Aquarium in Milwaukie, Ore., continue to maintain their innocence.

Outside of the aquarium Sunday, protestors such as Eric Phelps held signs, waved at passersby and were greeted by passing cars honking in apparent support.

“We’d like to see this place shut down,” Phelps said, an activist with In Defense of Animals now planted on the sidewalk directly in front of the Portland Aquarium. “…We want people to turn a critical eye to this place.”

Sunday’s protest, organized by activists from In Defense of Animals, is the latest chapter in the two-week controversy surrounding the Portland Aquarium.

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The sign outside the Portland Aquarium in Milwaukie, Ore., Sept. 1, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

“I don’t trust them, not with animals,” said Jennifer Brownlee, founder of a Boycott Portland Aquarium page on Facebook.

Two weeks ago a former employee released a death log showing more than 200 animals died at the aquarium in a three-month period earlier this year. That log was joined with allegations of animal mistreatment from former employees.

Aquarium staff and ownership said the log was taken out of context and insist their animals are being taken care of properly.

To be sure, a KOIN 6 News look at the numbers showed around 8% of the total number of animals at the new Portland Aquarium had died. In comparison, the mortality rate at the Oregon Coast Aquarium is “significantly less than 1% a year,” according to Oregon Coast Aquarium staff.

Inside the Portland Aquarium, August 2013 (KOIN 6 News file)

Inside the Portland Aquarium August 2013. (KOIN 6 News file)

“We’re a compassionate community,” Phelps said. “We want out animals treated properly.”

“I don’t think these guys should be in business,” said protestor Carye Bye.

On Friday, Portland Aquarium co-owner Vince Covino posted a letter to patrons on the aquarium’s Facebook page. It read that they’re taking the allegations seriously and have outside professionals visiting the facility. He promised any suggestions that could lead to improved health for the animals will be implemented immediately.

That letter didn’t stop those with In Defense of Animals from letting everyone passing by know exactly how they feel.

“If the owners will take some accountability [then] great,” Brownlee said. “But I don’t think they will.”

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