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BOULDER, COLO. - A growing trend around Colorado pre-schools will be put to a halt this year because of a ban by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding live poultry and other animals.
As of January of this year, new regulations prohibit children five and younger from having access to live poultry, reptiles and amphibians because of the risk of infections transmitted from hand to mouth.
Pre-school centers with chickens and other banned animals have until August to comply.
“It’s another rule that is limiting and overreaching,” said Ruby Montoya, who teaches at New Horizons Co-Op Preschool in Boulder.
The school has two chickens that kids get to feed their leftovers to every day during recess.
Administrators put signs near the chicken coop reminding teachers to have children wash their hands immediately after interacting with the chickens.
“The risk of a child getting sick from poultry like livestock like this is like .00005 percent,” said Montoya, "the benefits definitely outweigh that tiny tiny tiny risk."
According to the Dept. of Public Health, five children were hospitalized in Colorado last year for Salmonella after being exposed to baby chicks.
They cannot say whether any of those cases are linked to a pre-school.
A spokesperson for the Dept. tells Denver7 the regulation does not forbid field trips to places with banned animals.
There’s now an online petition to get rid of the new legislation that has gotten more than 1,500 signatures.
“I grew up with acreage and animals and I want them to experience that too,” said Arianna Patrick, whose son goes to New Horizons.
More than a dozen schools around Colorado have two or more chickens at their facilities.
“To be able at such a young age to expose these kids to things that we eat on a daily basis,” said Montoya, “to have them cognizant, that is priceless.”