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Following the release of video footage showing a dolphin biting the hand of a young girl at SeaWorld Orlando, PETA submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting an investigation to determine whether the incident stemmed from Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.

Risky Business

The video shows 8-year-old Jillian Thomas feeding fish to the dolphin as part of the Dolphin Cove attraction at the park. When she raises up the paper carton used to hold the fish, the dolphin surges up to grab it, biting Jillian’s hand in the process. The girl sustained puncture wounds to her hand, and the dolphin may have ingested the entire paper carton.

AWA regulations require that animal attractions have “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 has also asked the USDA to ensure that if the dolphin did ingest the carton, the animal receive proper veterinary care, per AWA requirements.

A similar incident occurred in 2006, when a dolphin’s mouth had to be pried open to free a 7-year-old boy’s hand. It was the second time in three weeks that a child had been bitten at the attraction, but SeaWorld refused to change anything.

Amusement or Abuse?

These episodes provide further reminders (as if more were needed) of how little SeaWorld is concerned with safety in its parks—except, of course, for the protection of its ticket sales. Not only has its unwillingness to take necessary precautions caused children to be harmed, it’s also resulted in severe injuries and even the deaths of its trainer and the animals it holds captive.

Even if SeaWorld implemented every safety procedure possible, though, life in captivity would still be miserable for the dolphins, orcas, and other animals imprisoned in its parks. Deprived of their families, social lives, and freedom of movement, these smart, sensitive beings grow increasingly frustrated, contributing to the risk for sudden, violent behavior.

Catch Kindness, Free Animals

Unlike SeaWorld, young Jillian is showing compassion— she prayed for the dolphin who bit her and hopes the animal “didn’t get sick from eating the paper carton.”

Teach kids to be kind: Please don’t ever take your family to SeaWorld or any other attraction that holds animals captive in cages or tanks.

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