8-year-old girl bitten by dolphin at SeaWorld

Published On: Dec 02 2012 08:17:35 AM EST
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Eight-year-old Jillian Thomas was having the time of her life, getting up close and personal with dolphins, her favorite animal.

As her mom and dad captured her feeding the dolphins on camera she picked up the tray of fish to say she was done, and that's when a dolphin leaped out of the water after the tray and instead got Jillian's arm.

The dolphin closed its jaws on the 8-year-old's arm and pulled her toward the pool before letting go. This all happened as the Thomas' were recording.

Jamie Thomas said he immediately rushed to his daughter's side fearing she'd end up in the pool.

"We think that attraction at SeaWorld is dangerous and it was traumatic for us to go through that event," said Jamie Thomas.

Jillian, who was visiting with her family from Atlanta, did see a doctor this week and is doing much better. But the bite did cause three puncture wounds on her arm and minor bleeding, according to her parents.

The family says it's more concerned about Jillian's emotional well-being. Her parents say the 8-year-old was depressed for a few days after the incident. She even prayed for the dolphin, which she thought would get sick from eating the paper tray.

The Thomas' say they're not looking to sue SeaWorld, but they want their experience to be a warning to other parents.

SeaWorld told WKMG-TV in a statement, "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."

Jamie and Amy Thomas admitted they were told multiple times not to pick up the trays with the fish, but to take each fish out and toss it to the dolphins. They say their daughter just forgot and made a mistake.

A SeaWorld spokesman said a first-aid employee did attend to Jillian's injuries, but the Thomas' think the park downplayed the incident.

"We had to ask for Band-Aids and [the employee] kind of thought it was cute that we wanted Band-Aids on something that they thought wasn't a big deal," said Amy Thomas.

SeaWorld did not respond when asked if it had plans to change the Dolphin Cove attraction.

In 2006 two children were bitten by dolphins at the same attraction.

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