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

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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."


    Amanda Lamb, Reporter
    Terry Cantrell, Photographer
    Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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