AZCentral/ Arizona Republic:

It was Saturday morning, and I was on my way to Dolphinaris Arizona on the Salt River Reservation with my youngest daughter.

As a journalist, I was assigned to cover the controversial lagoon habitat of eight bottlenose dolphins from the perspective of kids and families. What is the experience like if you go? Are the lines long? Is it worth the money? Is it educational for kids? That is the lens with which I approached this story.

As metro Phoenix resident, I am very aware of the emotional divide caused by Dolphinaris. I’ve followed the news coverage.

Animal activists have furiously picketed Dolphinaris, saying through multiple protests, a worldwide online petition and an Absolutely No Dolphins in the Arizona Desert Facebook page that intelligent marine mammals shouldn’t be kept captive for human enjoyment. Instagram pictures of elated visitors frolicking with a dolphin draw the ire of the masses, with comments about how the operation’s managers and owners should never have created such an exhibit, and that no self-respecting person should support such a business.

Are they right? Well, that’s for each person to decide. Here’s what I can tell you: Yes, I paid for entrance into the exhibit. Journalism ethics demand that we don’t accept tickets for free.

And yes, I did enjoy the experience. But if it wasn’t for this assignment, I probably wouldn’t have gone — and I don’t think I will be going back.

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