Green Meadows Petting Farm has pigs, cows, goats and sheep, in addition to a water buffalo, bison, ostriches and llamas. They also have hay rides, train rides and pony rides – all things that children love to interact with. However, the recent outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 and hemolytic uremic syndrome in Central Florida has caused business to drop off “tremendously” at Green Meadows.. Typically, they would be welcoming about 150 customers per day. But lately they have been averaging about 50, due to bad publicity from the outbreak.
“All the schools seem to be canceling,” Petting Farm manager Linda Langford said. “The school boards are getting involved. Their lawyers are warning them not to go. We have a beautiful place. It’s a shame that people are not allowed to come and enjoy it.” Langford said she heard from Orange and Seminole county school officials that their lawyers have advised them not to send students to facilities that contain farm animals.
Despite assumptions, the Osceola County School District has not received any communication from the county health department about petting zoos, nor has it not issued directives prohibiting schools from going on such field trips. Daryla Bungo, director of student services, said it’s a school-based decision.
Another company, Phillips Petting Zoos of East Prairie, MO, provided the animals for the Osceola County Fair at Osceola Heritage Park, as part of the Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show. Randy Bateman, livestock extension agent for Osceola County and vice president of KVLS, said:
“We feel like we made a concerted effort to offer a safe environment and we have an ongoing educational program to inform the public about safety practices that need to be followed when visiting the fair.”
Bateman said show officials provided hand-washing stations outside the petting zoo and offered hand wipes inside the petting zoo area as well.
“Individual families and consumers must make decisions as to whether to attend or not attend,” said Dr. John O. Agwunobi, secretary of the Florida Department of Health.. “I’m a parent of three children myself. Every day I look at the risks and make decisions about what’s right for my children. My goal is to protect them while exposing them to the wonders of the world. Animals carry diseases. There are precautions that need to be taken as a result.”