Let’s put this one in the "smart people doing stupid things" file.
Some well-intentioned people at Washington University in St. Louis thought they’d help relieve stress during exam time by bringing in a petting zoo – that unfortunately included "Boo Boo" the biting bear. As you can likely guess, problems ensued.
18 students sustained skin-breaking bites from Boo Boo.
- You’d think someone would clue into there being an issue after, say, a few bites. Once it hit a dozen, I would have thought anyone with common sense would get concerned. But 18??? Did they even pull Boo Boo out of the petting zoo by then, or did he just get tired of biting people? (Or did he simply run out of willing victims?)
Local public health officials originally mandated euthanasia and rabies testing.
- Because Boo Boo is a wild animal species, there are no quarantine provisions after potential rabies exposure. Because of that, standard guidelines are to euthanize the animal for rabies testing. This didn’t go over well (not surprisingly), and they eventually relented. From a practical point, it’s reasonable since Boo Boo’s not likely rabid, he’s just not a good petting zoo critter. However, the decision was probably more PR than science and they’ve gone against standard rabies prevention practices. This is one reason why wild species aren’t supposed to be in petting zoos.
It was reported that "This year, without the university’s prior knowledge, the petting zoo included in the experience a 2-month old bear cub,"
- Easy way to deflect blame but no excuse. The University brought in the animals. They had a duty to know what was happening.
Petting zoos can be fun and entertaining. Bear bites and rabies scares aren’t. A little common sense goes a long way. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t always very common.