Concerns Over Petting Zoo Safety After Florida Incidents - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/30/05-Tyler

Concerns Over Petting Zoo Safety After Florida Incidents

It's the hit attraction for kids: the petting zoo. And at Caldwell Zoo, the goats steal the show.

But in the rush to get into the pen, many ignore the warning signs of infection.

"Don't pet on animals and then go eat french fries or suck on their pacifier," Scott Maddox, the zoo's assistant director, said.

"I saw a child in there today doing exactly what it said -- do not put your hands in your mouth," Susan Cox, a mother of two children visiting the petting zoo, said.

Animal droppings are suspected to be the cause in the kidney failures of the Florida children. Health officials say that syndrome is typically contracted by touching undercooked meat or contaminated food. The disorder, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, can also be contracted through just touching the animals. Your child is also at risk of several other bacterial infections.

However, the zoo's veterinarian says it's not easy to contract these diseases.

"It's only a small part of the population that's truly susceptible," Dr. Steve Wilson said. "Mainly children and under 10 and people that have immunodeficiency problems."

Dr. Wilson says the solution is easy and it's just about as attractive and fun to the kids as the goats are: fake animal heads that spurt out water into sink, with antibacterial soap nearby.

"We washed our hands with the antibiotic soap," Charlotte Bruner, an aunt taking her niece and nephew to the zoo, said. "And then when we leave, in the car, I'm going to give them some antibiotic wipes. Then when we get home, I'm going to shower, as soon as we get home 'cause I'm afraid it might be on their clothes or something. And we'll put them right in the washer."

Parents' efforts, along with those of the zoo workers who clean up after the animals, can help your child leave the zoo happy and healthy.

Caldwell Zoo does not allow food or drinks inside the petting zoo. Also, zoo officials encourage parents to leave sippy cups and pacifiers away from the zoo area.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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