Safety precautions questioned after SeaWorld dolphin bites girl, 8



ORLANDO, Fla. - Safety precautions are being questioned after a father captured video of his 8-year-old daughter being bitten by a dolphin during a feeding at SeaWorld Orlando.

The incident was caught on cellphone video by Jamie Thomas of Alpharetta, Ga.

In his YouTube post, Thomas explains that his daughter, Jillian Thomas, was bitten by the dolphin while they were visiting SeaWorld on Nov. 21.

Additionally, Thomas wrote that he posted the video so other parents "can make an informed decision about whether or not the risks to yourself or your child are worth the experience."

As her father recorded video, Jillian finished handing out fish and then held up the paper tray to show her parents that she was finished.

At that point, the dolphin lunged out of the tank and bit down on her arm.

"I thought it was going to haul me into the water, and this is a little crazy, but I thought it was going to eat my hand off," said Jillian.

The dolphin let go and slid back into the tank.

SeaWorld officials issued a statement on Saturday regarding the incident:

"Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals. Educators and animal care staff are always on-site at this area, monitoring all interactions and are committed to guest safety.

"Educators and animal care staff were at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family. In addition, a member of our health services team was in the area at Dolphin Cove and quickly responded and treated the young girl.

"The video had not been previously shared with us and we have not a chance to assess it but certainly take the situation seriously."

Bryan Wilson works with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, an activist group that has long criticized SeaWorld for keeping dolphins and whales in captivity.

"They are living in completely unnatural environments," he said.

Wilson said training dolphins to approach people for food is risky for the humans and the animals, which can be hurt by items falling into the water. He said blaming an 8-year-old for breaking the rules doesn't help.

"So SeaWorld has, by shifting the blame to the public, has really done a disservice to themselves and the public and a terrible, tragic disservice to the animals," Wilson said.

Jillian and her family said they acknowledge that she made a mistake by raising the empty container above the tank's rail, but they hope SeaWorld will make changes to prevent an incident like that from happening again.

"I know why the dolphin did that. I know I wasn't supposed to do that," Jillian said.

Despite the scary moment, she was more concerned about the dolphin swallowing the paper container.

"I was worried because the dolphin might get sick because of that," she said.

She had an injury on her hand that she said felt like a bad scratch.