Three Children Sick, One Dead From Reported E. Coli Outbreak at Petting Zoo

Published by Jennifer O'Connor.

Update: July 2019

A 2-year-old has died after allegedly contracting E. coli from a petting zoo at the San Diego County Fair.

Four days after visiting the petting zoo, he began showing symptoms of illness. Less than a week later, complications from kidney failure killed him.

Three other children—all under 13 years of age—also contracted E. coli from the fair. Authorities are still investigating but have stated that all four of the children had visited the petting zoo. Investigators claim that the bacteria likely came from that, the farmed animal exhibits, or the pony rides. Officials also noted that they have closed the petting zoo.

This tragedy is a reminder of how dangerous forced encounters are for both animals and humans.

Please, always avoid photo ops and any other spectacle that forces animals to interact with humans. Roadside zoos, petting zoos or traveling shows, and other types of exploitative displays place profit over the well-being of sensitive, feeling animals. Behind many of these encounters are animals who’ve endured physical abuse, psychological trauma, and neglect.

Using our form below, speak out against forced animal encounters now!

Originally published on October 30, 2015:

Toddlers suffer from kidney failure. One-year-olds undergo dialysis and transfusions. Parents bury a child. What’s the common thread in all these tragedies? Petting zoos. Yes, petting zoos.

Young child at petting zoo © iStock.com/Jarrod1

As the parents of Colton Guay can attest, no one should underestimate the risks associated with petting zoos. Colton recently died after falling ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome just days after visiting a petting zoo at a Maine fair. The 21-month-old wasn’t the first child to die after visiting one of these ubiquitous displays, and hundreds of others have contracted serious—sometimes life-changing—illnesses. Many have battled catastrophic kidney failure, including a 4-year-old who required a transplant.

Getting sick with E. coli is not like eating something that disagrees with you. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Children and adults alike have contracted E. coli after coming into contact with animals in petting zoos or simply touching the surroundings near a display. The bacteria have been found on railings and bleachers and even in sawdust. Toddlers who get the germs on their fingers can transfer them to their sippy cups or pacifiers or simply suck their thumbs.

And let’s not forget the other victims of petting zoos: the animals who are forced to interact with crowds of people all day long. Focused on running the display (and making money), operators can neglect even the most basic needs of the animals, including food, water, and veterinary care.

What You Can Do

Be kind and keep your kids safe—skip the petting zoo.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind