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Petting Zoos and Hygiene

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 25 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Animals Petting Zoo Petting Washing

Petting zoos are enjoyed by young children, and adults alike, and provide an entertaining way of introducing children to the welfare of animals in a safe and friendly environment. Encouraging your children to build a relationship with animals, through petting, grooming and feeding, will help youngsters understand how to act responsibly and kindly. However, making sure they are also aware of the importance of hygiene should be your top priority.

Germs And Diseases

Animals can potentially carry a range of germs and diseases, which are known as Zoonoses. These zoonotic diseases can include salmonellosis, E.coli, toxoplasmosis, ringworm and toxocariasis, to name but a few. Some of these diseases can be particularly dangerous to unborn babies, young children, individuals who have an impaired immune system and those suffering from a chronic disease. Although many zoonoses can be successfully treated, ensuring you take appropriate precautions will help you avoid medical assistance.

Taking Precautions

The simplest, most effective, way to avoid getting an infection is to ensure you, and your children, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after petting and feeding animals at the petting zoo. Young child may become so engrossed in the animals and general activity around them however, that they forget to do this simple task effectively. Explaining the importance of staying germ-free to them, in a way that they clearly understand, will reduce your concerns for their health.

Carrying antibacterial wipes or hand gel with you, at all times, is a good idea as this method can be quickly used to eliminate the spread of germs if access to running water and soap is limited. Young children are especially quick at moving small, contaminated fingers from an animal directly to their mouth. Being extra vigilant, around young children, will enable you to reinforce the need for good hygiene standards at all times.

Precautions To Look Our For

Operators of petting zoos must ensure that they provide appropriate information about the animals and well-equipped hand-washing facilities that are easily accessible. They should ensure that all the animals at the petting zoo are healthy and vaccinated accordingly. Staff should also be prompt in the removal of animal faeces and in placing waste bins away from the animals, to discourage rummaging.

Separate visiting and eating areas, away from contact with the animals, should also be available. Where there is no space for a visitor’s area, the petting zoo should provide clear, directional signs that remind parents and children of the importance of washing hands thoroughly after contact with the animals.

How You Can Help

Good hygiene standards and practices must be maintained throughout the petting zoo environment. Parents can also help reduce the spread of germs and diseases by ensuring children are appropriately dressed when visiting petting zoos, and wear outdoor shoes or boots instead of sandals or no footwear. Any cuts or grazes should also be adequately dressed and bandaged.

Other Considerations

Many petting zoos visit preschool and childcare centres to allow young children the opportunity of interacting with animals. Before your child is allowed to take part in the educational experience your consent must be obtained by the childcare staff. Children taking part should then also be supervised during hand-washing, directly after petting the animals.

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