AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Aquarium is facing a lawsuit after a little girl’s parents claim she was bitten by an unvaccinated lemur on-site.
The girls’ parents just filed a lawsuit, saying that in December, their daughter was in the aquarium’s lemur exhibit, where participants can get up close and personal with the primates.
The girl’s father, Vikas Dumra, gave KXAN his account of what happened and how the aquarium staff responded.
“As the session was finished and she was heading out, one of the lemurs that was, in fact, sitting on her shoulder, it just jumped, and my daughter kind of bent down a little bit, and then she got bit,” Dumra said. “Naturally, I went to the front counter. I said, ‘Hey this is what happened. Do you want me to file some incident report? What’s the process?’ They were pretty casual about the whole thing, and they said, ‘Hey, why doesn’t she just wash it with some soap and water?'”
Dumra says when he asked if the animal was vaccinated, employees told him it was. He says he later emailed the aquarium’s owner asking for documentation of those vaccinations. He says the owner told him the animal was too young to be vaccinated.
In an email, the aquarium’s general manager told the Dumra family’s attorney that rules listed outside the exhibit say that guests have to stay seated and shouldn’t grab the lemurs while in the exhibit. The GM also said that the Dumras were urged to fill out an aquarium incident report but refused.
The family says the little girl’s medical expenses cost thousands of dollars. Now, they’re suing for $200,000.
“I would just hope that they instill some better practices to safeguard the public,” Dumra said. “I mean, this is a business where there are children, and this could’ve happened to anybody. We just don’t want that happening.”
Aquarium staff members confirmed they’ve been in communication with the family and verified the information in the general manager’s email.
The Austin Aquarium is inspected by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. In its last inspection on May 29, the report showed that the facility was out of compliance in regards to the veterinary care of its kangaroo and rabbits at the time.
In the last inspection before that, in September, problems were found with animal enclosures. That report said a hand or even a small child could slip through and make contact with some of the animals.
The USDA says it may take legal action if a facility doesn’t correct a problem by its next inspection. The USDA makes sure the animals are handled correctly and taken care of, but inspectors don’t check vaccination records.