I am a golden god: Wisconsin boy pets snake, gets Salmonella

If I owned a fake zoo store, like a pet store, I’d probably call it Serpent Safari. Reminds me of the scene in the 2003 movie, Almost Famous, when the lead guitar player goes off to meet real people, in of all places Topeka, Kansas, just down the road, and after doing some acid, a basement-dwelling dude asks the guitar player if he wants to watch him feed a mouse to his pet snake.

Yes.

Topeka. Real people.

A lawsuit has been filed in Lake County circuit court claiming that a 2-year-old boy contracted salmonella after touching an albino Burmese python.

A lawsuit seeking $50,000 in damages has been lodged against a reptile store and zoo in Gurnee Mills after a 2-year-old boy purportedly contracted salmonella after petting a snake there in December 2007.

Serpent Safari Inc. violated state laws by not providing liquid sanitizer for patrons or having a sign warning of infection risk to children younger than 5 who touch or handle reptiles, according to the complaint, filed Dec. 11 in Lake County circuit court.

Lawyer Michael Maher, who didn’t return telephone messages Tuesday, filed the suit on behalf of Sara Wirtz and her son, Trevor, and Judith Penoyer, all of McHenry County. Without providing specifics, the suit alleges Penoyer also contracted salmonella.

Serpent Safari owner Lou Daddono countered that he’s confident the albino Burmese python that Trevor would have petted did not pass on salmonella. The snake lives at the store and is not for sale.

Daddono, who also denied the negligence claims, estimated more than 400,000 visitors have touched the python without a problem in his 11 years in business. He questioned why it took two years for the salmonella suit to be filed.

Serpent Safari’s lack of sanitizer or signs noting the need for hand-washing after coming in contact with reptiles amounted to negligence, the complaint alleges. More than $50,000 in damages are sought from the business.

Penoyer suffered "severe and permanent illness and/or injuries, externally and internally," says the suit. The complaint states Trevor’s hospital expenses and other medical care will require his mother to pay large sums of money.