The Fayetteville (NC) Observer reports that before opening Crystal Pines Alpaca Farm to the public, Joe Picariello – who runs the farm — said he visited several petting zoos and took classes that helped him establish guidelines for encouraging healthy interaction between people and animals.
School children visit the farm to see its hundreds of animals, including alpacas, chickens, goats, turkeys and miniature donkeys, sheep and Sofie, the miniature cow, but they cannot cross fences to hold the animals, feed them or sit on the ground.
Picariello is sticking to the rules announced by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to encourage healthy interaction between people and animals. Mary Ann McBride, a veterinarian with the department, said the rules were developed as a result of last year’s outbreak of E. coli bacteria that got more than 100 people sick after they visited the petting zoo at the N.C. State Fair.

“We are sympathetic to the families that were affected,” McBride said, “and we want to provide an improved environment… We hope to minimize that risk and these guidelines are a key part.”

The guidelines recommend that signs be posted to warn people about the risks of animal contact and that staff members be present at events to promote safety and educate patrons. The rules encourage visitors to reach through fences to pet the animals and not carry food and drinks or strollers and other baby accessories such as bottles and pacifiers into animal areas. The guidelines also urge people to wash their hands after touching animals.