On Wednesday, PETA announced that it had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over a 9-year-old girl who was bit by a dolphin at SeaWorld San Antonio. Now, the USDA has said they are looking into the incident, according to local news station KENS5.
An official with the USDA said the agency is looking into the allegation and working to determine if there was any non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.
The girl had been visiting the park's Dolphin Cove attraction, where visitors are invited to pet the animals. The dolphin reportedly latched on to the girl's hand so tightly that her mother was unable to pry the animal off, and a park employee had to be called over for help.
SeaWorld released a statement regarding the incident:
At SeaWorld, the safety of our guests and animals is a top priority. We are fully investigating this incident and we regret the guest experienced this during her visit. SeaWorld provides thousands of safe interactions between our guests and animals each day, and incidents like this are few and far between. The guest received an on-site medical evaluation and after the incident she and her family stayed in the park and visited other attractions.
Many animal advocates contend that "dolphin encounter" attractions like this are unsafe both for the people and for the animals, because the animals aren't suited for confinement in the first place. According to the Humane Society of the United States, "Captive dolphins may exhibit an assimilation tendency, expecting humans to fulfill the natural social roles of their wild counterparts. They may become submissive or sexually aggressive when interacting with humans."