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Sea Lion Poop Lawsuit Raises a Stink in San Diego

By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Some angry residents are suing the City of San Diego for a buildup of sea lion poop and the noxious odors caused by it.

The Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatements (CFONA) have filed suit in state court, demanding that the city clean up the sea lion droppings from La Jolla Cove as well as remove a fence that keeps the public from accessing the area, reports Courthouse News Service.

Is this sea lion plop really something worth suing over?

First Bird Doodies, Now Sea Lion Dumps

Prior to the sea lion issue, the picturesque Cove had been slathered in bird droppings, which could be whiffed "as far as a mile away from the beach," reports U-T San Diego. The city had taken pains to clean up the avian excrement using a nontoxic bacterial solution, but then the sea lion poop hit the fan.

The lawsuit alleges that the City of San Diego caused the influx of full-boweled sea lions when it installed a fence preventing the public from accessing a portion of the Cove, an area where sea lions (and their poop) are now hard to miss, reports Courthouse News Service.

CFONA claims this fence was put up without an environmental impact report, which would have allowed public review of the fence before it was erected.

Can You Sue Over Foul Smells?

As this case shows, raising a stink over the smell of sea lion dung can indeed lead to legal action. Public nuisance suits like CFONA's are a good example of how even cute animals can become a noxious presence.

A public nuisance is one that affects the health, safety, welfare, or comfort of the public, which can potentially include gross or terrible smells. Not too far north of San Diego, a Sriracha hot sauce factory in Irwindale was shut down due to its spicy fumes, with the court siding with citizens who claimed the peppery odors were a public nuisance.

The sea lions' poop fumes have been described by residents as "foul, noxious, and sickening," reports Courthouse News, so a court order to mitigate the smell is quite possible. Lacking a giant poop-neutralizing sandalwood candle or a firehose full of Febreeze, residents claim that removing the fence will end the sea lions' stinky reign over the Cove.

Maybe the San Diego City Council could get to work on a fresh pine-scented fish?

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