Local News

New Law Aims To Reduce Public Exposure To Animal-Related Diseases

Posted October 3, 2005 6:26 a.m. EDT

— For many children, the petting zoo is the highlight of the North Carolina State Fair.

But for Terra Perrigo and her parents, Laura and Terry Perrigo, it was nothing but a nightmare. Terra -- along with more than 100 people, mostly children -- was infected with E. coli at last year's state fair.

Doctors say Terra now has a chemical imbalance in her brain as a result of her exposure. Her parents and five other families are suing the petting zoo.

"She's constantly crying over nothing," Laura Perrigo said. "She doesn't trust us. She's scared a lot, doesn't sleep well."

With just 11 days before the

2005 state fair

, state lawmakers and health officials are determined to do more to protect others from E. coli and other diseases that can be spread from animal contact.

Senate Bill 268

, which went into effect Oct. 1, instructs the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to come up with a process to permit petting zoos in the state.

A task force has already come up with a list of guidelines sanctioned by the department that petting zoos must follow to operate in North Carolina. Visitors to this year's state fair will see many changes as a result of the new law and guidelines from the Department of Agriculture.

Some of the guidelines require:

  • Hand-washing stations.
  • Clear signs regarding hand-washing.
  • Only one exit from the petting zoo.
  • Animals in pens that visitors cannot enter. (

    More Guidelines

    )

  • The Department of Agriculture also wants to discourage visitors from hand-mouth contact -- such as eating, smoking or using a pacifier -- while in the petting zoo.

    The Perrigos say the law is a step in the right direction.

    "I want to make sure this doesn't ever happen again," Laura Perrigo said. "Part of my daughter's childhood has been taken away from her."