Attorney Scott Miller has filed a lawsuit against Ag-Venture Farm Shows Inc. – adding to the string of legal actions taken against the Plant City-based company, whose petting zoos at fairs held in Orlando, Plant City and Tampa in recent weeks are under scrutiny by state health and agriculture departments.
Miller is filing the suit on behalf of Patricia Chace and her three children – three-year-old Connor Chace and his 18-month-old twin siblings, Courtney and Cole, who all became seriously ill three days after visiting the Central Florida Fair in Orlando on March 12. They have all tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, the nasty strain of bacteria that can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder, said Marti Mackenzie, a spokeswoman for Miller. The four will continue to be monitored by doctors.
The suit alleges AgVenture failed to:
• Prevent its petting zoo animals from contracting harmful bacteria;
• Properly inspect its animals;
• Provide adequate handwashing facilities;
• Warn the public about illnesses that may result from interacting with the animals.
Marler Clark is representing three other families planning to sue AgVenture, and I’ve represented dozens of victims in similar circumstances in North Carolina, Oregon and other states. This is a nasty bug. I think petting zoos and fairs have an obligation to do absolutely everything they can do to make sure these outbreaks don’t happen again.
I suggest that Florida and other states should follow the lead of Pennsylvania, which created rules for petting zoo operators based on standards recommended by the CDC in 2001, which include installing handwashing stations with hot water, soap and disposable towels at petting zoos.
I have spoken at numerous events, including the annual meeting of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. Petting zoo operators are upset and angry me, because they claim I am “trying to ruin America,” rather than help them provide a safer environment for visitors. But nothing could be further from the truth.