The News & Advance reports that animal-rights activists protested the planned opening of a new aquarium yesterday over allegations the company behind the interactive aquatic exhibits has abused and exploited animals.

SeaQuest Lynchburg is a planned 22,000-square-foot, $5 million aquarium slated to open inside River Ridge mall this summer. The aquarium is expected to feature several hands-on exhibit and hundreds of species, including sharks, stingrays and exotic birds.

The aquarium has generated significant interest since it was announced in March, according to mall officials, but protesters warn the company has a history of misconduct. The group carried signs denouncing SeaQuest, a for-profit company based in Idaho, and  pointed to allegations of neglect at other SeaQuest locations across the country as proof the company poses a threat to animals.

SeaQuest sent a statement outlining the features of their new aquarium and noting that they often house rescue animals. The statement did not specifically address protesters’ concerns about allegations of animal abuse. The River Ride Mall manager told the News & Advance she was confident the animals would be well cared for.