The little girl who got bit by a dolphin at Sea World said today that it “really, really hurt.”
But instead of being upset, 8-year-old Jillian Thomas said she prayed for the dolphin.
“There was this little carton that you put the fish in and I fed them and then I pulled it and raised it up and when the dolphin saw it, it leaped at me and bit me and ate the carton,” Jillian said. “It really, really hurt.”
She suffered three puncture wounds to her hand, about the size of a dime, before the dolphin released her.
The girl, however, was more worried about the dolphin.
“I was afraid that the dolphin might get sick because of the paper carton,” she said.
“Two nights we prayed for the dolphin,” said her mother Amy Thomas.
The frightening experience hasn’t stopped Jillian from loving animals and she still says she hopes one day to become a dolphin trainer.
Jillian and her family had spent the day Nov. 21 at the Orlando park’s Dolphin Cove, visiting the dolphins for the second time that day.
In a video taken by her father, Jillian held up the paper tray that holds the dolphin’s food and moved it away from the pool. The hungry dolphin lunged toward her and bit her hand. Sea World warns guests not to move or wave the plate with the food in the air while feeding the dolphins.
Jillian’s father, Jamie Thomas, posted the video online as a warning to other parents.
Her dad taking the video when the incident occurred.
“It was instant fear and I thought for that, wow, I may have to lunge at and pull dolphin or pull her and get physically, you know, involved,” he said.
Sea World says they helped the girl, while her parents said they felt like the park trivialized the situation.
“Educators and animal care staff are always on site at this area. They were onsite at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family,” Sea World said in a statement to ABC News.
“Our guests are given clear instructions on how to feed the dolphins in an appropriate and safe way,” they said.
“We were given instructions, so I don’t remember there being signs, there may have very well been signs,” Amy Thomas said. “But they did go into detail about the rules and we did just fine the first time. I think the second time she was just excited… She wasn’t waving it over, even though that was still against the rules… she just forgot and it was just a simple mistake, that and unfortunately, you know, she got bit.”
“I think the girl that helped us initially was behind and may not have understood the severity of it is my guess. So my response was, once I had looked at her hand which you can still see, that her skin was broken. And then she offered to get first aid,” she said. “It’s an easy thing to have happen…kids maybe just don’t understand the risk as much as an adult would.”
Her parents say they are not pursuing legal action, but are airing their story in hopes that Sea World will make the park safer. They suggest increasing the age limit or eliminating the paper plate that holds the fish.
ABC News’ Alyssa Newcomb and Lauren Torrisi contributed to this report.