Be careful what you tweet. One Ontario resident proves that what you put on social media could land you in legal trouble after Marineland Canada sent police to his house in response to one of his tweets. Yes, the famous aquarium and amusement park in Niagara Falls called the police on a local resident; however, they have a legal history with him.
The man in question is Phil Demers, a former professional marine animal trainer and animal activist who actually used to work with walruses at Marineland. In an interview with Narcity, Demers revealed his reasoning behind the controversial tweet that brought the police to his door and along with his thoughts on Marineland.
In a video posted to his twitter, Demers reveals that Niagara Police showed up at this house on July 24. The officer in the video says they were called by Marineland who were concerned after Demers tweeted "Life is short. Steal a walrus" earlier in the week.
Demers told Narcity that he had been lying on his couch, just relaxing and wanted to tweet something so he came up with the "Life is short. Steal a walrus" joke, thinking it was cute. He says he then carried on with his day and didn't think anything of it. He still didn't think anything of it when police showed up at his door the next day.
Demers, who speaks out against conditions at Marineland regularly, says he records every legal encounter he has, hence why there is a video of this particular police visit. He also told Narcity that while he was surprised the officer was there about his walrus tweet, he says this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
He recounted one other case, in particular, when he had retweeted comedian Kenny Hotz, who had said: "it's time to torch this place" in response to a PETA article about Marineland. Demers says after that retweet, police were sent to his house, just like what happened this week too.
In both these cases, Demers says that Marineland is trying to shut him up and that this tends to happen when he starts getting more attention. He told Narcity, "this is a classic case of Marineland... they saw the attention I was getting last week posting the videos." Those videos included one of Smooshi, performing out in the sun during the heatwave that hit Ontario in early July.
Since leaving the park in 2012, Demers has actively advocated for the animals at Marineland and made allegations of mistreatment there. He also launched an online campaign calling for Smooshi, the walrus he worked closely with during his time at Marineland, to be released. Using the hashtag #SaveSmooshi, he continues to tweet about the conditions of the animals at the park.
He even has a Go Fund Me page dedicated to the Save Smooshi campaign. The campaign has a goal of $160,000 and over the past 45 months has raised $142,479 of that goal. According to the site, the funds are being used to help fund a legal battle against Marineland, which Demer's has been wrapped up in for the past six years.
Shortly after leaving the park in 2012, in an interview with the Toronto Star, Demers and a number of others Marineland employees alleged that animals were being held behind bars, that there wasn't enough staff to care for them, and that problems with the water were detrimental to the animal's health.
In 2013, Marineland officially filed a number of legal complaints against those employees and one against Philip Demers in particular. In their $1.5 million lawsuit, they alleged that Demers was plotting to steal Smooshi, which likely served as inspiration for his most recent tweets.
Demers told Narcity that this lawsuit is baseless and essentially a smear campaign against him. He also says it is still ongoing. "Marineland has delayed litigation for six years," Demers said. "It's a campaign of pure intimidation."
When asked if he has any actual intentions to actually steal a walrus Demers says the whole idea is absurd. He said of his criminal history, "I don't have so much as a seatbelt infraction against me." He goes onto say not only does he not have a plan to steal a walrus he also doesn't have the means to do so and would have nowhere to put the animal, even if he wanted to.
Demers also revealed that since posting this video and original tweet, he has gotten requests from people wanting "Life is short. Steal a walrus." t-shirts. He says he is actually considering making and selling them and if he does, all the proceeds will go towards his fight to save Smooshi.
Narcity has reached out to Marineland Canada for comment and we will update this story when we receive a response.