Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel is demanding full disclosure at petting zoos and other exhibitions with live animals where children are allowed to touch the animals.
His child has been to the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Kissimmee twice before and had enjoyed it thoroughly. Green Meadows is a fully interactive petting zoo, with activities that include learning how to milk a cow. The most recent school trip, however, was cancelled after children became critically ill after visiting petting zoos at the Central Florida Fair and the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
Many more Florida schools are cancelling trips to petting farms and zoos, and Thomas agrees with the decision.
“Can you imagine watching your boy feeding a lamb one day, then watching him barely clinging to life on a dialysis machine less than two weeks later? And nobody told you about that risk?” he said. “Nobody told you these infections have been going on at petting zoos around the country for years, and that in Pennsylvania a father had to donate a kidney to his daughter to keep her alive? I literally would go insane.“
Thomas suggests that health warnings around petting zoos are either too vague or do not take natural child behavior into account.
“Yes, there are signs at petting zoos about eating in the animal pens and hand washing. I assumed they were basic hygiene warnings, like washing hands before dinner. Nobody mentioned consequences,” he says.
He compares two options for signs. Rather than “No eating around the animals and wash your hands” he would prefer to see something to the effect of “These animals may contain a deadly bacteria. If your child eats around them or does not thoroughly wash his hands after petting them, he could go into kidney failure.”