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Dolphin bites girl at SeaWorld Orlando

Leah Zanolla | Posted: Dec 3, 2012 | Updated: Dec 3, 2012 - 5:32:04 PM
A dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando bit an eight-year-old girl on November 21. Jillian Thomas loves dolphins, so her parents planned a trip to SeaWorld so she could see her favorite animals. She went to the dolphin cove twice that day, and on the second visit, paid $7 to feed fish to the dolphins. The rules at the attraction state "not to wear loose jewelry, touch the dolphin's head and under no circumstances, move the paper tray holding the fish from the edge of the pool."

Jillian fed her fish to the dolphin, and when the plate was empty, she lifted it to show she was done. The dolphin then jumped out of the water and shut its mouth around her hand. Jillian’s dad, Jamie Thomas, was videoing and caught the whole incident on camera.
"The first thing I thought was I would have to jump in the water and save my daughter's life," Thomas said. "I literally thought she was going to be pulled into the water."

The park's first-aid personnel treated Jillian; she had three dime-size puncture wounds and her hand was swollen. Jillian's parents are upset with the way the incident was handled. They said they felt safe and didn’t realize there was a chance she could get bitten.

Her mother said Jillian may have forgotten the rules in her excitement and "made a mistake but you can’t hold a minor responsible for that."

According to the family, after the wounds were treated, they were asked if Jillian had had a tetanus shot, then were given ice and a bandage and told they had no reason to worry. After getting home and doing some research, they learned of harmful bacteria that can be inside the mouths of marine mammals. Jillian did not end up with an infection, but was sad about the incident, concerned that eating the paper plate may have harmed the dolphin.

"It was strange how they downplayed the whole thing," Thomas said. "At the time, we thought we were at fault but these are children. We just want other parents to know the dangers."

A statement from SeaWorld said, "Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals. Educators and animal care staff were at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family." They had not seen the video, which Thomas posted online as a warning to other parents.

The family doesn't plan to sue, but hopes the incident will prompt SeaWorld to raise the participation age for the experience and to make it clear that there is a chance the dolphins will bite.
A similar incident happened in 2006, when a dolphin bit a 7-year-old boy. Two adults had to pry its mouth open to free his hand, which was bruised. At the time, SeaWorld said they "were confident with the attraction’s setup and would not change anything."


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