(LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.) — Seventeen rescued sea lions in Laguna Beach, California, had just recovered from dehydration and starvation last week when they were allegedly injured by someone who filled their pool with chlorine at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, police said.
Most of the seals suffered corneal ulcerations, or eye burns, according to a Laguna Beach Police Department statement.
“When I saw them, some of their eyes were completely shut, and others had really puffy and swollen eyes they could barely open,” Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Tim Kleiser told ABC News Wednesday. “And all of them were out of the water, which was unusual, according to the lady who was working there at the time.”
Though 10 of the seals have recovered, seven are still being examined by staff veterinarians, a Pacific Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman told ABC News. The center rescues sick or endangered seals, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild after they’ve recovered.
“What’s sad is that they had just been nursed back to health after being found dehydrated and starving,” the spokeswoman said. “This is the first time our center has experienced criminal activity since the 44 years we’ve been here.”
Police said they believe a suspect or suspects entered the center between 8 p.m. April 27 and 6 a.m. April 28.
Prior to the incident, the seals had recently been given a “clean bill of health” and were actually “due to be released the following day,” police added.
Police encourage anyone with tips about the incident to call Laguna Beach Detectives David Gensemer or Abe Ocampo at (949)-497-0377 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hotline at 1-800-853-1964.
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