Petting Zoo Safety
Children love going to petting zoos! It's a chance to get up close and personal with cute farm animals. You'll find petting zoos at agricultural shows, carnivals and fairs, circuses, and of course zoos. While petting zoos can be a fun educational experience for kids, parents need to be aware of the potential health risks and how to avoid them when children pet animals.
Animals may carry a range of germs without showing any signs of disease. Diseases can be spread through direct contact with animals and then placing contaminated fingers or other items in the mouth.
Safety tips while at the petting zoo...
Keep an eye on your kids, especially if they are under age 5. Make sure that children never put things in their mouth (such as hands or pacifiers) while they are touching or playing with animals. Children should wash their hands with soap after visiting an animal exhibit.
Food and animals don't mix. Leave all food and drinks outside of areas where there are animals. No eating or drinking should not be permitted in interaction areas. Sharing your food with animals risks both their health and yours. Make sure your kids don't eat food intended for animals.
Hand washing is one of the most important practices in preventing the spread of disease for visitors to petting zoos. Make sure that everyone in your family washes hands, ideally with soap and hot running water, after touching animal enclosures or the animals themselves. In a pinch, antibacterial hand gels will also work. Find out where the nearest hand-washing station is.
Bring a change of clothes. A jacket can become contaminated when a child leans on a railing, or that shoelaces dragging in the mud can transport bacteria back home. The safest bet is to have the children change their clothes after petting the animals. Don't wear them again until they have been washed in hot, soapy water.
Watch for symptoms. If your child does become ill soon after visiting a petting zoo or farm, call your doctor. Let them know you were in contact with petting zoo animals. This can save valuable time in making a diagnosis. Pay close attention to any possible signs of infection for a week or so after your trip.
This doesn't mean that you can't take your child to a petting zoo. If you take the necessary steps, a trip to the petting zoo can be safe!