Flipper's Revenge

They're cute. They're cuddly. They're smart. And as the fiasco at Sugarloaf Key shows, they make humans do crazy things.

Good's impulsive behavior was also the final straw for the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary's three out-of-state board members, each of whom was a prominent and respected animal rights advocate. In a series of emergency meetings via telephone conference call, the three directors, who constituted a majority of the board, staged an organizational coup d'etat. Among other dramatic decisions, they voted to transfer four dolphins -- Molly, Luther, Buck, and Jake -- to Rick Trout at his recently established Marine Mammal Conservancy near Key Largo. (Trout had been sending the board members alarming reports about events at Sugarloaf.) In addition, they voted to place Bogie and Bacall in Joe Roberts's possession in Melbourne. Not surprisingly Good and O'Barry, the other two members of the board of directors, strenuously objected and quickly took the matter to Monroe County Circuit Court, where they emerged victorious: A judge ruled that conditions at Sugarloaf did not warrant the animals' removal.

Trout's ambitions to gain control of the dolphins were thwarted, and he once again launched a worldwide publicity campaign aimed at discrediting Sugarloaf and challenging the judge's wisdom in allowing the dolphins to remain with "known animal abusers."

Joe Roberts, on the other hand, resorted to negotiation. The result, arrived at after much consultation and third-party intervention, was that Bogie and Bacall would be moved north to Melbourne; Molly, Luther, Buck, and Jake would remain at Sugarloaf; and the out-of-state board members would resign, to be replaced by directors friendlier to Good and O'Barry.

Bogie and Bacall's rehabilitation and eventual release would continue under the auspices of the Welcome Home project and would take place at Roberts's compound on the Indian River lagoon, where the animals had been captured eight years earlier. This location would increase the animals' chances of readapting to the wild and possibly even rejoining their original family group.

In September 1995 Bogie and Bacall arrived in separate trucks. Riding with Bacall was O'Barry, who stepped down from the vehicle and, on orders from Roberts, was immediately arrested for trespassing. According to Roberts, the arrest was a form of payback. When members of Roberts's staff had gone to Sugarloaf to assist in preparing the dolphins for the trip north, Lloyd Good had ordered them off the property. O'Barry reportedly did nothing to intercede.

With O'Barry's arrest, any vestiges of a partnership with Roberts abruptly ended. The Humane Society, which had played a central role in obtaining navy dolphins Luther, Buck, and Jake, was now no longer welcome at Sugarloaf. In response, Naomi Rose, the group's marine biologist, threw her support behind Roberts and the Welcome Home project's effort to release Bogie and Bacall. The Humane Society also kicked in more than $100,000. The major sponsor, however, was Four Paws, the respected Vienna-based organization. Niki Entrup won't say how much money his group contributed throughout the Bogie and Bacall saga, but he minces no words about his disillusionment: "For me the result of everything is that I would not, as a European organization, go for a release in the U.S. any more."

Lloyd Good and Ric O'Barry may have struck a deal that reconstituted Sugarloaf's board of directors and allowed them to keep Molly and the three navy dolphins, but that didn't mean their problems were over.

Prompted by repeated complaints, many of them filed by the Humane Society and Rick Trout, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a prominent dolphin veterinarian down to Sugarloaf to inspect the animals. The specialist's report was critical, and the agency ordered Good to hire a veterinarian of record and to have his animals undergo a series of medical tests. If Good didn't comply with these directives, the feds warned, he would be subject to fines and even the loss of his permit to keep the dolphins.

Good was resistant to most of the edicts, especially the government's insistence on extensive testing, in large part because he was opposed to having the dolphins perform learned "medical behaviors" that enable handlers to take blood samples, blowhole cultures, and perform other examinations without the use of sedation or physical restraints. "If you're trying to decondition them to stop being dependent on humans," he says, "the last thing you want to do is continue to reinforce those trained behaviors."

By early 1996 most of the staff and volunteers had either left Sugarloaf or had been asked to leave by Good, who had made little effort to comply with the government's orders. Even those who had long supported the Sugarloaf project were deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation. "All this time we'd been defending the place against people like Trout," recalls volunteer Vanessa Martini. "Now things really were bad. I walked out because I couldn't be party to animal abuse."

Good, by now convinced that the government posed a threat to the dolphins' welfare, took another dramatic step: He removed the remaining fences that had been blocking the animals' access to Florida Bay. At last he had achieved his ideal of free will -- the dolphins could to come and go, and the males could mate with Molly if they so pleased.

When federal officials learned what he'd done, they responded sternly and charged him with violating the Animal Welfare Act. Even O'Barry publicly criticized his partner, telling the Miami Herald that Good was "out of control."

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