Tag Archives: traveling animal shows

Medical alert on petting animals at zoos/circuses

By Jennifer O’Connor
 
No one should underestimate the risks associated with petting zoos and hands-on animal displays, as the tragic death on Monday of a little boy in Maine shows.

The 21-month-old boy became sick with hemolytic uremic syndrome after contracting E. coli at a petting zoo.
 
Yes, those ag displays, tiger cub pens, pony rides and petting zoos can land you in the hospital or worse.

Multiple bacterial, viral and parasitic agents have been linked to contact with animals, including E. coli and salmonella bacteria and swine flu, West Nile and rabies viruses.
 
The most common victims of these outbreaks are youngsters. Hundreds of children around the country have become seriously ill after contracting E. coli at petting zoos.

Many have suffered catastrophic kidney failure, including some who required transplants.

E. coli outbreaks are as common as cotton candy and vary only in the number of people infected. A toddler was hospitalized with life-threatening kidney failure—and received dialysis and multiple blood transfusions—after she contracted E. coli at a Wisconsin fair in 2010.

North Carolina health officials documented 43 confirmed cases of E. coli and suspected at least 100 more in people who had visited a petting zoo at the 2004 state fair.
 
Infection can spread through direct contact with animals or simply by touching the surroundings near an animal exhibit. Hand sanitizer does nothing to prevent the spread of E. coli by inhalation, and the bacteria has been linked to sippy cups, pacifiers and even thumb-sucking.
 
E. coli and swine flu aren’t the only pathogens lurking at fairs and zoos. In 2010, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had to assess some 70 children suspected of having had contact with a rabid calf at a petting zoo.

The children’s petting zoo at the Toledo Zoo was closed indefinitely in 2005 after three animals tested positive for campylobacter, an infectious type of bacteria that causes gastrointestinal illness. A year earlier, a bird and a horse in the Phoenix Zoo’s petting area died of West Nile disease, even though the horse had been vaccinated.
 
These outbreaks are neither rare nor isolated, and safety guidelines appear to be making little difference. In a case dating back to the 1990s, at least 50 people were stricken with a particularly virulent type of salmonella after visiting a petting area at the Denver Zoo. Eight of the victims had to be hospitalized. A 5-year-old Michigan boy was hospitalized after becoming ill with a salmonella infection after visiting a petting zoo on a school field trip in 1999.

Seven other children also became infected. That same year, as many as 650 people were believed to have been exposed to rabies after having had contact with a bear cub at an Iowa petting zoo. Several had to undergo rabies vaccinations. The bear cub later died of the disease.
 
Is it any wonder that animals who are crammed into sweltering transport trucks and holding pens and hauled around the country are in ill health? Hiring a veterinarian to accompany them would reduce profits, so sick or injured animals often go untreated.
 
It’s impossible to know how many animals suffer and die on the fair circuit because exhibitors’ convoys are constantly on the move, and for the most part no one is watching. With fewer than 100 federal inspectors covering the country, it’s simply not possible to monitor exhibitors with any regularity.
 
But you can still enjoy a local fair without putting your children’s health at risk or supporting cruelty to animals. Simply walk on by the petting zoo, pony rides and any other displays that use animals as props.

I passed on the DCU event for the sake of animals

By Mike Germain

Last week I was offered four free admission tickets to an upcoming event at the DCU Convention Center for myself, my girlfriend, her son and my son.

The event is a sort of travelling carnival, complete with kiddie rides, refreshments, raffles and, of course, the obligatory kiddie zoo.

The zoo was listed as complete with a bull, camel rides, monkeys, and a petting zoo, etc.

Ah, Yes! The annual travelling zoo and carnival is making its way back to these parts!

Because the offer of the free tickets was thoughtful and made with all good intentions, I accepted the tickets and thanked my friend. But we didn’t go. The tickets  brought back memories …

Three years ago I had a very similar experience. I came across tickets to this very same event with pretty much the same advertising : “kiddie rides, petting zoo, camel rides, live animals” etc. I thought to myself, this may be a great way to spend some quality time with my girlfriend and her 4-year-old son.

So off we went for the afternoon to the so-called carnival and traveling zoo. Upon arrival, my girlfriend’s son sprinted through the doors! His first experience was some sort of bull, the biggest bull you can imagine, lying in a pile of hay enclosed by a metal fence. The area that this bull was in was barely large enough for him to stand up and turn around. Our four year old was cognizant enough about the situation to ask me: “Is the cow OK? He can’t get much exercise!”

The cage the bull (cow) was kept in to transport when not on display was just as compact as this fencing area – if not smaller.

Next we moved on to the area that had some monkeys. They were displayed in another small cage, and the number of monkeys housed in it seemed substantial to me.

I saw the look on our once excited four year old become very confused. He asked us: “Why can’t the monkeys move?”

This definitely tempered our enthusiasm for the day.

At that point I looked around and saw what seemed to be similar situations at most of the other exhibits: Animals caged or housed in enclosures that seemed much too small for their size or housing too many animals.

My girlfriend’s son was visibly upset and we decided it would be best to just leave.

He thought the animals were “unhappy.”

I love animals of all different kinds, and I love to watch them in their natural environment. I’m not a follower of PETA and quite frankly I think they go a bit too far. However, this experience opened my eyes to the traveling zoo culture, and it certainly made me more sympathetic to the plight of these animals.

I urge others not to attend this event.

If you want to satisfy your love for animals in their natural environment and enjoy the beauty of their existence, I suggest tuning into The Animal Planet on cable network.

Michael (Mike) Germain is a former Worcester City Councilor, a Worcester small biz owner, supporter of the Worcester Friendly House, kids ice hockey teams and other Worcester youth sports teams. He owns a very large parrot!

End of the road for animal acts

By Jennifer O’Connor

The trend is undeniable: The days of hauling animals around and hurting them in the name of entertainment are quickly coming to an end. Winnipeg is the latest municipality to slam the door shut on circuses using exotic animals. Mayor Sam Katz and the Winnipeg City Council made it clear that they will no longer tolerate circus cruelty.

All around the world, cities and entire countries are banning exotic-animal circus acts. Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, Greece, Paraguay and Peru have done so already, and others, including Britain and Scotland, are on the verge of doing so. Besides outright bans, many cities are saying no to the tools that circuses use to inflict pain, such as the bullhook—a heavy baton with a sharp metal hook on the end that can rip and tear elephants’ skin—and electric prods. Since circuses control animals with these cruel devices—or more accurately, attempt to control them, since so many have run amok—such prohibitions effectively keep the animals out.

Only a decade or so ago, the fabulous Cirque du Soleil was one of the few alternative circuses around. But the demand for cruelty-free entertainment has skyrocketed, and now there are more than a dozen vibrant, innovative productions touring North America that don’t exploit animals. Even consummate huckster P.T. Barnum couldn’t convince today’s informed public that beating animals and keeping them in cages and chains from birth to death is acceptable.

The empirical evidence of what life is like for animals in circuses is undeniable and readily available to the public. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, for example, paid a record $270,000 to settle multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. At least 30 elephants have died while in Ringling’s hands since 1992.

Former employees of Ringling have come forward to report egregious abuses, including forcibly removing baby elephants from their frantic mothers, tying them down by all four legs, and slamming them to the ground, surrounded by “trainers” wielding bullhooks and electric hotshots.

An undercover investigator videotaped a Carson & Barnes elephant trainer who was viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook and shocking them with electric prods. The elephants screamed in agony while recoiling from the assaults. The trainer can be heard instructing his students to sink the weapons into the elephants’ flesh and twist them until the elephants scream in pain.

Despite being ordered to pay a $7,500 penalty to settle nearly three dozen charges of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, the Liebel Family Circus continues to drag around an elephant named Nosey, even though she is suffering from a chronic skin condition. The Piccadilly Circus was given an official warning by federal authorities about its animal-handling practices. The Kelly Miller Circus has been cited for denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant with a painful, oozing puncture wound on her ear, among other abuses.

The facts are simple and stark: Animals in circuses suffer tremendously. Every parent or grandparent who buys a ticket is contributing directly to the animals’ misery. Every child who exits a show believing that hurting animals is “fun” leaves a bit of his or her heart behind. Our elected officials should enact additional laws that put a stop to an outmoded form of “entertainment” that has no place in a civilized society.