Petting Zoo Diversification Tips: Health and Safety Measures to Remember
Making new profits from your land has never been simpler, but you MUST know the pitfalls too. Find out our easy health and safety tips to remember if you diversify into petting zoos, here...
Land diversification is often about thinking outside of the box to discover new and interesting ways to use your land. That said, it doesn’t always have to be complicated. In fact, it’s so easy to use what you’ve already got on your land to rake in a profit - your animals!
Nevertheless, it’s not all fun and games, as there are a number of potential illnesses that can be caught from animals. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention actually reported over 100 illness outbreaks related to petting zoos over just a five-year period.
We, at the Farm Business Innovation Show are here to help. Whether you’re thinking of diversifying into petting zoos, or just taking your children to one yourself, find out what you should watch out for, to prevent petting zoos bringing illness to children, or the rest of the family…
The Dangers of Petting Zoos
There are a number of diseases you could catch from animals at petting zoos. In general, many of these diseases can’t be transmitted through touch. It’s through wounds or consumption that these diseases can make their way into your system.
What’s more, it’s mainly those with a weakened immune system that could be at risk. This includes young children, elderly individuals, and pregnant women. But, what could you be at risk of catching? Some examples include:
Recent investigations have proven that animals can carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria! Israelean researchers harvested 382 faeces, fur, skin, and feather samples from over 200 animals living in eight petting zoos around their country. After testing the bacteria residing in these samples, they discovered that one quarter of the animals had more than one of these multidrug-resistant bugs!
The main “superbugs” they discovered were:
- Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase (ESBL)
- AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae (AmpC-E)
Causing skin infections, digestive issues, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and even sepsis, this bacteria could be fatal for humans. This, compounded by the emergence of antibiotic resistance, has become a medical emergency. It means that medical progress may be sent back hundreds of years!
Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is a type of bacteria that resides in the digestive system of healthy farm animals. Although many types of E. coli are completely harmless to humans, there are some strains which could cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and, more rarely, death.
In fact, in June 2019, three toddlers became ill, and a two-year-old boy passed away, from E. coli sickness after visiting the San Diego County Fair petting zoo. In the young boy’s case, the E. coli reached his kidneys, which proved fatal.
Potential infections from petting zoo animals were first looked into, urgently, after a large outbreak in 2009. After 27 people were sent away for hospital treatment upon their visit to a petting zoo, Professor George Griffin, a renowned infectious disease expert, investigated the matter.
The investigation showed that many farm animals will not show symptoms of E. coli poisoning, even if they have it. This shows that taking precautions is vital to avoid situations like these.
Salmonella is very similar to E.coli, causing almost identical symptoms, but can also be found on the bodies of healthy animals. So, even though the animals aren’t sick, they can pass on serious illnesses to humans.
Cryptosporidium is a parasite found on any surface that has been contaminated by faeces - human or animal. The symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include stomach pains, accompanied by watery diarrhoea and stomach pains. Although it has no real treatment, staying hydrated is the key.
Campylobacter is similarly found in the stool of animals, but is, instead, a bacterial infection. In comparison to Cryptosporidium, this bacteria can be fatal, causing abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, and fever, as well as death in more susceptible individuals.
Listeria Monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that will prove fatal to most foetus’, human or animal. It’s spread through contaminated food, soil, and water, and causes vacant and confused symptoms within animals, and headaches, a stiff neck, loss of balance, convulsions, and more, in humans.
- Q fever
How to Prevent These Health Risks
Although these illnesses may sound pretty scary, there are a number of ways you can help to prevent contracting illnesses from petting zoos. Whether you’re a petting zoo owner, or a concerned parent, here are some steps to take:
Petting Zoo Owners
- Decide whether you want visitors to directly contact the animals.
- Have clear sign-posts on the risks and rules (see next header for rules).
- Build washing facilities, with sinks and soap. Hand gels and wipes are NOT a substitute.
- Do not sell food or drink near the animals.
- Educate staff on risks, and how to avoid them.
- Ensure all cuts and grazes are covered with plasters.
- Make sure the petting zoo has all the appropriate sanitary precautions before entering, including washbasins and anti-bacterial soap.
- Leave all strollers, dummies, toys, and cups outside the exhibit.
- Keep an eye on your children, making sure they don't put their hands on their faces or in their mouths during the trip.
- Don’t eat, drink, or chew gum around the animals.
- Don’t kiss the animals.
- Don’t let children sit on the ground with the animals.
- Wash yours, and you children’s hands, thoroughly after petting the animals, or just being around them. Don’t rely on hand wipes or hand gels.
- When home, remove and clean all shoes, clothes, and pushchair wheels that may have been dirtied with contaminated soil. Wash your hands again after this!
- Watch for symptoms.
Goat to Go...
Want to discover more about petting zoo safety from an expert in the field? At our Farm Business Innovation Show, on 6th & 7th November at Birmingham’s NEC, we’ll be welcoming Tom Robinson, from National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN). He’ll be speaking on the topic of safe public interaction with farm animals.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hear him, and many others, speak, and get your FREE ticket to the show to get schooled. Otherwise, we’ll see you next week for more animal inspiration… goat to go!