SeaWorld Defends Bite, Public Calls for Investigation Into Dolphin Feedings

SeaWorld is defending itself against accusations that negligence led to an 8-year-old girl being bitten by a dolphin. The public, however, has banded together to ask the institution to stop all public feedings, which would prevent further injuries.

SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides assured the public that "educators and animal care staff … 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."

Yet the father of victim Jillian Thomas feels differently.

"We felt powerless," Jamie Thomas, father of the victim, told CNN. "We thought, look, we've got this video. Let's make it public and let's try to put some pressure on SeaWorld to make some changes."

Jillian Thomas, the victim, said she "accidentally held" the paper plate and the dolphin "jumped up and ate the carton and bit my hand. I was thinking it was going to haul me into the water. And this is a little crazy," she added," but I thought it was going to eat my hand off."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate following the publication of the Thomas' home video. The USDA has not said whether it will or will not follow through with PETA's request.

Individuals, however, led by the Dolphin Project, have formed a petition to stop the public feeding of animals, which could put people at risk.

"Sign the petition & tell James Atchison, CEO of SeaWorld to stop this public feedings now," Dolphin Project tweeted.

"When I heard that eight-year-old Jillian Thomas was bitten by a dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando's dolphin petting pool, I was not surprised. This kind of thing has happened before, and it will likely happen again if dolphin-petting pools remain open. Many aquariums in the United States have already shut down their dolphin-petting pools, citing their inherently abusive and unsafe nature," Ric O'Barry, director of the Dolphin Project, posted on his blog.

Bides, however, maintained there are "specific instructions to not pick up the paper trays at any time. Our guests are given clear instructions on how to feed the dolphins in an appropriate and safe way. Unfortunately, there are times when instructions are not followed."