The North Carolina State Fair is not, according to Courthouse News Service, liable after more than 100 people became sick after an E. coli outbreak at its petting zoo in 2004, the state appeals court ruled.
The state’s health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the infection of 108 people to the petting zoo at the state fair in 2004. Jeff Rolan and dozens of others then sued the fair’s sponsor, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled in favor of the state, noting that veterinarians prepared for the fair by checking the animals’ health and removing those that were sick. Also, a veterinarian posted additional signs warning patients to wash their hands and also added hand sanitizers to the petting zoo area.
In light of these facts, the commission determined that the state had taken precautions to protect the health of the patrons.
The plaintiffs argued on appeal that the state should have taken additional cautionary measures, such as providing better supervision, erecting a fence between the children and the animals, and providing information on the risk of E. coli infection. A three-judge panel with the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s ruling on April 1.
”While it was certainly possible for defendant to take the additional precautions suggested by plaintiffs, we agree with the Commission’s conclusion that Defendant did not fail to act with due care in October of 2004 to minimize the risk of exposure to E. coli,” Judge Linda Stephens wrote for the court. “Sources cited by the Commission note that it is impossible to eliminate the risk of enteric pathogens, like E. coli, in human-to-animal contact settings without eliminating petting zoos altogether.”
Then maybe they should be eliminated, or at least much better controlled.
Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions
Zoonoses and Public Health
G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman and D. Powell
Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. ‘It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the USA caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.