Discuss as:

SeaWorld defends its employees after dolphin bites Georgia girl's hand

Jillian Thomas, 8, suffered puncture wounds from a dolphin bite at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., as she was feeding the animal. SeaWorld says Jillian did not follow directions given by a park employee. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

SeaWorld is defending the actions of its employees in Orlando, Fla., after an 8-year-old girl from Georgia was injured by a dolphin.

Jillian Thomas of Alpharetta was participating in the feeding at the dolphin facility Nov. 21. When she held a paper fish container up  so the dolphin could grab it, the animal lunged at her and bit her hand. Her father, Jamie Thomas, captured the attack on camera. The video shows the girl’s face contorting in pain as the dolphin briefly grabs her left hand.


Jillian suffered three puncture wounds, but her mother said she didn't think park employees took her injuries seriously.

In a statement, SeaWorld officials said they addressed the incident appropriately.

"Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals," the statement said.

"Educators and animal care staff were at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family. In addition, a member of our health services team was in the area at Dolphin Cove and quickly responded and treated the young girl.

"The video had not been previously shared with us and we have not had a chance to assess it, but certainly take the situation seriously."

Food for the dolphins comes on small trays. In a video from the exhibit, an announcer warns visitors not to hold them up, as the dolphins will reach for them.

In the video, Jillian can clearly be seen picking up the tray, but her mother claims she never heard the warning.

SeaWorld said guests are given clear instructions on how to feed the dolphins, including specific directions not to pick up the paper trays.

More content from NBCNews.com:

Follow US news from NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook