Dangerous zoos

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:35

    To the Editor: While the E. coli outbreak linked to spinach is making headlines, there is another source that puts people’s health at serious risk: petting zoos. Yes, those ubiquitous fair and carnival sideshows can land you in the hospital, or worse. Petting zoos are hotbeds of E. coli bacteria, and numerous people, mostly children, have been infected with the potentially deadly disease after visiting such displays. Some children have died; others have required kidney transplants. Infections can spread through direct animal contact or simply by touching the surroundings near an animal exhibit. A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said, “We’re seeing increasing outbreaks [of E. coli] at petting zoos. Unfortunately, the smallest children are the most susceptible.” Hand-washing guidelines do little to protect people, and absolutely nothing to help animals. The Animal Welfare Act, which doesn’t even cover birds, horses, and some other species, only requires petting zoos to give animals enough room to stand up and turn around. Many petting zoos fail to meet even these minimal standards. It’s time to shut these unhealthy, inhumane exhibits down for good. The risks to both people and animals is simply too great to allow them to stay in business. For more information on petting zoos, please visit www.WildlifePimps.com. Jennifer O’Connor People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals