While well-intentioned, the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s recent hand-washing guidelines simply may not be good enough to protect children from E. coli and other potentially deadly bacteria at petting zoos, particularly since hand washing does nothing to prevent spread of E. coli by inhalation.
The Animal Welfare Act only requires petting zoos to give certain animals enough room to stand up and turn around. Many petting zoos fail to meet even these minimal standards. Crowded pens increase the possibility of pathogens to enter the air and into human lungs.
E. coli has also been determined to exist not only on animals at fairs and petting zoos, but also in rafters, on bleachers, on the walls and in sawdust on the floor.
E. coli bacteria also sickened 82 people at the Lane County Fair in Washington in 2002, and investigators believe that the bacteria was spread through the air inside the goat and sheep barn.