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Child Bitten at SeaWorld by Captive Dolphin

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A dolphin at SeaWorld San Antonio Dolphin Cove latched onto the hand and wrist of a young girl so tightly that even her mother could not pry open the mammal’s mouth. A SeaWorld employee had to intervene and shoot the animal with a water gun, said the American animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “According to the alleged victim’s mother, the dolphin bit the girl while the child tried to pet the animal – a behavior expected and encouraged by SeaWorld. This incident and exhibit clearly endangered both the dolphin and the public,” PETA said.

PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), asking them to determine whether SeaWorld violated portions of the Animal Welfare Act. The complaint cites a provision of the Animal Welfare Act that requires “sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public.” PETA claims that according to, “the victim’s mother, SeaWorld staff at Dolphin Cove encouraged patrons to “pet” the approximately six dolphins confined to the pool, but when the victim placed her hand into the pool, a dolphin bit into the victim’s wrist and held it for approximately 10 seconds.

The SeaWorld staff member reportedly blamed the victim for the incident, claiming that the child was bitten because she held out her hand in a way, that made it look as if she was holding a treat. SeaWorld gave a statement saying that “SeaWorld staff was present at Dolphin Cove during the incident, and responded quickly to assist the guest, who received on-site medical evaluation,” the statement reads. “After the incident, she and her family stayed in the park and visited other attractions.”

According to the little girl’s mother, SeaWorld did not offer her daughter first-aid, even though she suffered bite marks and swelling to her skin. Also, the girl had not previously received any instruction whatsoever not to hold her hand in that manner.

This is not the first incident at SeaWorld where a child has been bitten. In 2012 eight-year-old Jillian Thomas was left with three puncture marks after a dolphin bit her hand. Beside the pool’s edge, there was a paper plate filled with food for the dolphins. Visitors were told not to remove the plate, as this is where the dolphins find their food. Thomas noticed the plate was empty, and when she picked it up, a dolphin “jumped up and ate the carton and bit my hand,” she said. “I was thinking it was going to haul me into the water,” said Thomas.

In another incident in 2006, “two adults had to pry open a dolphin’s mouth to free a 7-year-old from its grip” when “[i]t bit the boy and bruised his hand,” PETA told the USDA. Apparently, “[t]hat incident was reportedly the second time a child was bitten at the attraction in three weeks.”

Dolphins, with their perpetual smiles and seemingly friendly demeanor, make it is easy to forget that these are captive wild animals. In the wild these animals are very social creatures that form close family bonds. There have even been numerous reports about dolphins in the wild saving people from drowning. The same cannot be said for dolphins in captivity, which are forced through cohesion and starvation into performing unnatural stunts. These highly intelligent animals are frustrated, and therefore, can be unpredictable in their behaviour. Permitting any kind of physical interaction between a human and a captive dolphin puts both the human, and animal at risk.

Despite the incidents that have already occurred, SeaWorld continues to knowingly endanger the public by encouraging its patrons to participate in this inherently hazardous activity. Entertainment facilities such as SeaWorld, have very little regard for whom may get injured, or even killed. Their only objective is to increase their revenue by profiting off the inhumane treatment of innocent creatures.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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