ST. LOUIS, Missouri––Slated to be killed and beheaded for rabies testing, Boo Boo the two-month-old bear cub won a reprieve on May 2, 2014 when the Missouri Department of Conservation advised the St. Louis County Health Department that the bear’s history was sufficiently well documented to preclude the possibility that he might be rabid.
Boo Boo was instead transferred to the St. Louis Zoo on May 6, 2014 for at least a 30-day quarantine.
Exhibited at Washington University during the last days of April by Cindy’s Zoo, of Moscow Mills, Missouri, Boo Boo bit or clawed at least 18 students during photo sessions, university officials said.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture [Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service] has cited owner Cindy Farmer for 17 incidents of ‘noncompliance’ since 2011, and nine in the past year,” reported David Hunn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act included “expired vaccinations, pigs kept in a room ‘close to pitch dark,’ jagged metal in the porcupine enclosure, and a water bowl so dirty ‘a thick buildup of black-brown debris’ covered the bottom,” Hunn wrote. “At one point,” in May 2013, “an inspector arrived at the farm to see a young goat on top of a feeder,” who “appeared to be suspended in the air with the weight of its entire body resting on two wires,” according to the USDA report. The goat was freed, Hunn continued, but “the incident was a repeat violation.”
Concern about petting zoos as a source of disease in humans was whetted by reports from Britain that at least 12 children under 10 years of age and two adults had contracted potentially lethal e-coli variant O157 infections from an exhibition of sheep and lambs at Huntley’s Country Stores in Samlesbury, near Preston.
A similar e-coli outbreak afflicting three children and two adults followed the Royal Queensland livestock show in Brisbane, Australia, in September 2013.
Frequent e-coli outbreaks traced to petting zoos in the U.S. led the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to publish non-binding guidelines for traveling animal shows in April 2002. Recommending that hand-washing stations accompany any exhibition that allows visitors to have direct contact with animals, the guidelines were subsequently incorporated into regulations in many states and at many individual exhibition venues.
But far more animals suffer at petting zoos than human visitors, a point underscored by the allegations in cases currently before the courts in Vermont and Illinois.
Lillian Billewicz, 56, and Brian Deistler, 25, owner and caretaker of the Santa’s Land theme park in Putney, Vermont, on April 29, 2014 pleaded not guilty to causing the deaths through malnutrition and mistreatment of eight reindeer, two potbellied pigs, birds, and other animals.
Billewicz acquired Santa’s Land in 2013. Opened in 1957, the roadside attraction has passed through many previous owners.
“Deistler also entered not guilty pleas in two unrelated cases,” reported Mike Faher of the Brattleboro Reformer. “He is charged with grand larceny in connection with alleged thefts of antiques and other items on March 2, 2014 in Putney, and he faces charges of felony heroin possession and violating conditions of release in connection with an April 4 arrest in Bellows Falls.”
Stacy Fiebelkorn, owner of the Mini Zoo Crew in Hampshire Township, Illinois, on April 14, 2014 reportedly agreed to surrender custody of two goats, “the last of 90-plus animals seized from her” on March 4, reported Susan Sarkauskas of the Chicago Daily Herald. “Fiebelkorn, 34, is accused of failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care to her horses, donkeys, ducks, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, llamas and alpacas. Sheriff’s deputies and Animal Control workers found 12 dead animals,” Sarkauskas continued. “Fiebelkorn then voluntarily forfeited some of the animals,” while others were forfeited by default when Fiebelkorn failed to post a bond for their upkeep.
(See also “Petting zoos can make children sick,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-n4.)