Police in Laguna Beach were searching Tuesday for the person responsible for contaminating the water system at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center with chlorine, injuring more than a dozen sea lions.
The incident occurred sometime between 8 p.m. on April 27 and 6 a.m. on April 28 at the Laguna Beach facility, according to a news release from the Laguna Beach Police Department.
The chlorine contaminated one of the pools where 17 sea lions were being treated, police said.
Most of the sea lions in that particular pool had already been given a “clean bill of health” and were due to be released the following day, according to the facility.
The contamination left 15 of the sea lions with varying degrees of corneal ulcerations. Eight have already healed, but another seven continued to receive treatment from a staff veterinarian.
This was the first known animal assault to ever take place at the non-profit center, which services all of coastal Orange County, the release stated.
Laguna Beach police were working with investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a joint investigation. City surveillance footage was also being reviewed in an attempt to locate the suspect(s) or their vehicle.
The responsible person faced federal and state charges, which could include $20,000 in fines and possible jail time.
Anyone with information was urged to contact Detectives David Gensemer or Abe Ocampo at 949-497-0377 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hotline at 1-800-853-1964.