Could Visiting a Petting Zoo Make Your Child Sick? What Inside Edition Found

Two boys in California and Maine died after contracting E. coli following trips to petting zoos. Inside Edition visited a few different petting zoos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to see what we could find.

Petting zoos can be great fun for the whole family, giving children a chance to get up close with animals they might not see every day.

But could there be a hidden danger that can make little ones sick? Two boys in California and Maine died after contracting E. coli following trips to petting zoos. 

Inside Edition visited a few different petting zoos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to see what we could find. 

At Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pennsylvania, customers are warned to wash their hands, with hand sanitizer conveniently located near the animals. The same was the case at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where visitors were offered a sink with soap to wash up after coming into contact with the animals. 

But it was a different story at Paws Discovery Farm in Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey, where there was a beautiful area to pet the animals, but not one warning sign. There was a hand sanitizer dispenser, but it was located far away from the animals and Inside Edition found it empty. 

Asked by Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero why there's no hand-washing station near the animals or a sign advising visitors to clean up, executive director Kelly Lyons replied, "It's a great idea, we should do it."

"We would love to do it ... sponsored by Inside Edition," added Lyons. 

Inside Edition swabbed the animals at each of the zoos and sent the swabs for testing. As you might expect, many of the animals were filthy and loaded with E. coli, which comes from feces. Inside Edition also found other bacteria that might make your child sick. 

We showed the results to New Jersey mom Chantel Besser, who brought her two daughters to several petting zoos. 

"That's gross," Besser said. 

"What would you say to parents that are thinking of bringing their kids to petting zoos?" asked Guerrero. 

"I would say keep a close eye on your kids and at least have antibacterial wipes in your bag just in case," she answered. 

Inside Edition went back to Paws Discovery Farm a few weeks later and found it had added signs and hand sanitizer closer to the animal petting area. 

Experts say it's important to keep kids away from chickens and amphibians. In addition, don't let kids sit on the ground and don't let them put their fingers in the animals' mouths.