Columbia County officials said Wednesday that they will investigate the treatment and activities of several animals after the family of a 17-month-old boy said the child was bitten by a baboon at the Columbia County Merchants Association Fall Fair.
Linda Fulmer, manager of Columbia County Animal Care and Control, said the boy was bitten once on the hand Sunday in the fair's petting zoo. She said the bite was reported to her office Monday and officials were out checking the fair again Wednesday.
Patrons can throw food to feed the fair's two baboons, but Mrs. Fulmer said people are supposed to stay behind a 3-foot-tall fence that is about four feet from a cage housing the baboons.
Instead, she said, the father of the 17-month-old was holding his child and leaned over the fence "for it to feed the baboon." That's when, she said, the boy was bitten.
Martinez resident Michelle Collins, the mother of the child, said there were no signs near the baboons advising people not to feed the animals over the fence.
"If you're going to call something a petting zoo, have everything in there to be petted and fed," she said. "Don't offer food if you don't want them to feed things."
She said other people were feeding the baboon before her son Riley was bitten, causing his hand to bleed.
"The baboon just kind of went nuts, and after he bit him ... he jumped around the cage like he knew he had done something," she said.
She said she took her son to his pediatrician the next day and he was put on antibiotics. She said she and her pediatrician have been denied medical reports on the baboon.
Mrs. Fulmer said she confirmed with a state vet in Atlanta that the baboon doesn't have rabies and there also isn't a concern with any viruses.
Mrs. Fulmer said she suggested that the petting zoo owner, Eudora Farms, of Salley, S.C., either put up more warning signs or have the surrounding fence moved back. She said a fair official told her she might consider taking the petting zoo's two baboons out of the display.
Mrs. Fulmer also said that during an inspection at the fair off Columbia Road near Appling her department questioned the treatment of some of the animals.
"When we got there, a lot of the animals in that same building had no water," she said. "And some ponies on stock trailers did not have water."
Mrs. Fulmer said her department will make sure animals are being cared for properly until the fair ends Saturday.
"We're going to be doing some spot checks, unannounced," she said.
Bobby Herrington, the president of the Columbia County Merchants Association, said he'll also check on the latest concerns with the petting zoo.
He said patrons can report any problems at the fair to Merchants members, who wear green vests.
He said Eudora Farms has been involved with the fair for several years. "We've never had a problem at all with them."
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.