Bear cub reprieved after rabies scare on WashU campus

ST. LOUIS – A bear cub who caused a rabies scare after a petting zoo event on the campus of Washington University will not have to be euthanized as first thought.

The 2-month-old bear was a big draw at Washington University Sunday, but after it nipped more than a dozen students, there was a worry the bear would need to be put down because of a rabies threat.

Over the weekend, a student organization worked with a local petting zoo to bring animals on campus as a way for students to unwind during finals. Boo Boo the bear was the big draw where the mascot is a bear. A student tells NewsChannel 5 people were lining up to hold him.

Boo Boo nipped at about 14 students, kind of like puppies do, nothing serious, but he broke the skin. Because he's not a domestic animal, health officials at first could not rule out the possibility he carries rabies. So the possibility came up that he'd have to be euthanized to do rabies testing.

Late Friday afternoon health officials gave the bear the all-clear, meaning his life will be spared and the students will not require treatment. Meanwhile, students are critical of the university and the petting zoo, Cindy's Zoo in Moscow Mills.

"Everyone's posting on Facebook, all over social media. They're really outraged. It's just sad that people didn't do their homework in the beginning and there's a bunch of miscommunication," said sophomore Connie Zhou.

Washington University says it was not aware the petting zoo was bringing a bear. There were also horses, pigs and goats there. Cindy Farmer, who runs the zoo has not returned our calls or e-mails.

U.S. Department of Agriculture records show inspectors have found violations for inadequate vet care and problems with Cindy's Zoo in the past. But as recently as March of this year, the facility appears to have passed all inspections with no violations.

PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders released the following statement Friday:
"Bears such as Boo Boo are doomed from the start. Petting zoos are disaster zones for diseases, including rabies and E. coli, and also deprive wild animals of everything that is natural and important to them. Petting-zoo operators and other animal exploiters sign death warrants for these animals and jeopardize the health of everyone involved."


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