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Some Jerk Poisoned Sea Lions With Chlorine

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Authorities are looking for the soulless suspect who poured chlorine into the water at a sea lion rehab center.

The sea lions had already been through a lot before arriving at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, which rescues, rehabilitates and then releases sea lions. It's been a really rough year for sea lions, and thousands of starving pups have been separated from their mothers from San Francisco to San Diego—20 times the average. (At least one of these juvenile delinquents was BUSTED.)

Most of the 17 sea lions at the center had probably been rescued late December or January and were set to be released the next day when someone dumped chlorine into the water filtration system sometime between 8 p.m. April 27 and 6 a.m. April 28, authorities told the Los Angeles Times. The Laguna Beach Police Department believes that it was an intentional attack, not a mistake by an employee, because all the chlorine on site was accounted for, meaning whoever dumped the chlorine brought their own supply.

"We really want this person caught," Keith Matassa, director of the center, told the OC Register. "It's just devastating that someone would actually do this. these animals were ready to go back into the ocean. Now they will be in rehabilitation for the next four to six weeks. It's unfortunate and unfair to have this happen."

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An employee noticed right away that something was wrong on the morning of April 28: there was a strong stench of bleach, the animals weren't in the water and her eyes were beginning to burn. One of the facility's salt water pools had been contaminated. Of the 17 sea lions, fifteen had swollen eyes and corneal ulcerations to different degrees. So far none of them have been released but they're all expected to fully heal eventually heal. The side effects of too much chlorine for a sea lion aren't too far off from what a human would experience.

Laguna Beach detectives are working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigators to pursue federal and state charges of animal cruelty and violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act—which could carry a $20,000 fine and one year of jail or prison time.

There is surveillance video but it hasn't been helpful in identifying suspects. Police are interviewing people with access to the pool, and they're considering past employees and anyone who may have a grudge against the facility. If you know anything, call up Laguna Beach detectives at (949) 497-0377 or the NOAA hotline at (800) 853-1964.

Last month, some jerks kidnapped a sea lion pup.