E. Coli Outbreak Could Lead to Petting Zoo Ban

An outbreak of disease in North Carolina is leading to reconsideration of the safety of petting zoos.


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After 38 people were sickened—including eight hospitalizations and one death—due to interacting with animal attractions at the Cleveland County Fair, officials are questioning the dangers of petting zoos. Cleveland County Health Director Dorothea Wyant believes that the E. coli bacteria was transmitted by animal feces, which then could have spread through one of the fair’s many animal-centered activities. “We just can’t pinpoint which animal,” she tells The Los Angeles Times, “We had camel rides, pony rides, exotic animal exhibits, cow-milking, kangaroos, a six-legged goat—all kinds of stuff.” Many animal-welfare groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States, argue that animal attractions such as petting zoos should be outlawed not only due to ongoing sanitation concerns, but also because of the inhumane treatment and conditions many of the animals are subjected to at zoos, fairs, carnivals, and livestock shows.