All 11 members of the state Board of Agriculture, the policy-making body for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, approved new sanitary and signage rules for petting zoos Wednesday.
Under the new rules, the department’s animal health technicians and veterinarians will inspect the petting zoos prior to the opening, reports the News & Observer. The zoos will have to have 29-inch high fences to separate animals from people and warning signs about the possible health risks of touching the animals and hand-washing stations. Food, drink and pacifiers are prohibited in the animal exhibits.
The Board of Agriculture approved the rules this week in order to make the regulations effective in September, which is the busiest month for county fairs.
43 people contracted E. coli at the State Fair petting zoo in 2004. As a result, last year, all 45 North Carolina county fairs voluntarily complied with the animal exhibit guidelines before they became law, agriculture officials said.