Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - June 8, 2005)
Petting zoos: common sense, balance and
At the foot of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., my family
owned a little more than an acre of gentle rolling, green valley land which
nurtured my brother and I, a mess of chickens, an occasional goat, a pack of my
fathers purebred Labrador retrievers (golden and black), a basement lined
with more than 200 cages of canaries and parakeets, and then of course there was
always a small dog on my mothers lap.
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|Snoopy, 7, who was rescued by
his owners Brenda and Dale (Absolute Best Ponys and Friends of
Animals), enjoys a day out relaxing in the sun and enjoying corn on
We grew up surrounded by animals.
We didnt have anything but soap and hot water, but I just dont
remember anyone becoming ill from cleaning out a stall.
Have things changed?
Petting zoos in particular are being targeted in recent news articles as venues
for transmission of E. coli O157:H7, one of hundreds of strains of the
Multiple locations exist where public contact with animals is permitted (e.g.,
animal displays, petting zoos, animal swap meets, pet stores, zoological
institutions, nature parks, circuses, carnivals, farm tours, livestock-birthing
exhibits, county or state fairs, schools, and wildlife photo opportunities). Over
the past few years there have been a rising number of illnesses, particularly among
children under 5, who have apparently come in contact with E. coli O157:H7 after
attending petting zoos and fairs.
The primary mode of transmission for enteric pathogens such as: E. coli O157:H7,
Salmonella and Campylobacter, is the fecal-oral route. Animal fur, hair and saliva
can become contaminated with fecal organisms, as well as entry gates and doors, or
from touching any surface that may be contaminated with the feces of the animal,
unsanitized stalls, trailers and areas where animals have been located, strollers,
blankets, clothing, pacifiers, baby bottles, sippy cups, food containers, foods
(including sticky foods such as: cotton candy), water and water bottles and then
what follows hands to mouth.
Hand-mouth activities (e.g., eating and drinking, smoking, and carrying toys and
pacifiers) should not be permitted in interaction areas. Bring a change of clothes
Government health agencies dont seem to be recommending that petting zoos,
animal fairs, or any other place where the public comes in direct contact with
animals should be eliminated or generally avoided, but the following
recommendations and precautions have been released from CDC and the Humane Society
of the United States:
Venues should be designed to minimize risk.
Farm animal contact is not appropriate at food service establishments and
infant care settings, and special care should be taken with school-aged
At venues where farm animal contact is desired, layout should provide a
separate area where humans and animals interact and an area where animals are not
Food and beverages should be prepared, served, and consumed only in
Animal petting should occur only in the interaction area to facilitate
close supervision and coaching of visitors.
Clear separation methods such as double barriers should be present to
prevent contact with animals and their environment other than in the interaction
Hand-washing facilities should be adequate. Hand-washing stations should be
available to both the animal-free area and the interaction area. Running water,
soap, and disposable towels should be available so that visitors can wash their
hands immediately after contact with the animals. Hand-washing facilities should be
accessible, sufficient for the maximum anticipated attendance, and configured for
use by children and adults. Communal basins do not constitute adequate hand-washing
facilities. Where running water is not available, hand sanitizers may be better
than using nothing. However, CDC makes no recommendations about the use of hand
sanitizers because of a lack of independently verified studies of efficacy in this
Children aged less than 5 years should wash their hands with adult supervision
because they may not be able to speak for themselves or understand the
Children are at the greatest risk for serious complications caused by E.
coli infection because of their heightened susceptibility to infection. This
problem is compounded by the fact that children are difficult to control during zoo
and fair visits, and are the least likely to understand or follow hygiene rules
Persons at high risk for serious infections should observe heightened
precaution. Farm animals should be handled by everyone as if the animals are
colonized with human
enteric pathogens. However, children aged less than 5 years, the elderly, pregnant
women, and immunocompromised persons (e.g., those with HIV/AIDS) are at higher risk
for serious infections. Such persons should weigh the risks for contact with farm
animals. If allowed to have contact, children aged less than 5 years should be
supervised closely by adults, with precautions strictly enforced.
This problem is not caused by the animals rather it is how the animals are treated
and cared for mentally and physically and how the humans are allowed to interact
Whats needed is common sense and balance, as always, to bring us back to
Karen can be reached at mystudiodesigns.com.