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Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Jul 1;45(1):10-5. Epub 2007 May 21.

Observation of practices at petting zoos and the potential impact on zoonotic disease transmission.

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Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.



Although petting zoos are common at public events and allow the public to interact with animals, there has been minimal evaluation of practices at petting zoos.


Unannounced observation was performed at 36 petting zoos in Ontario, Canada. Observers recorded information, including physical layout, animal species, animal health, types of animal contact permitted, animal sources, hand hygiene facilities, signage, sale of food for human consumption, and hand hygiene compliance.


The majority of petting zoos (24 [67%] of 36 petting zoos) were part of temporary events, particularly agricultural fairs (21 [58%] of 36 petting zoos). A variety of animal species were present, including some animals that are considered to be at particularly high risk for disease transmission (neonatal calves and baby chicks). The following items that would come into contact with the mouths of infants and children were carried into the petting zoos: baby bottles (at 17 petting zoos; 50%), pacifiers (at 24 petting zoos; 71%), spill-proofs cups (at 19 petting zoos; 56%), and infant toys (at 22 petting zoos; 65%). Hand hygiene facilities were provided at 34 (94%) of 36 events, and hand hygiene compliance ranged from 0% through 77% (mean compliance [+/-SD], 30.9%+/-22.1%; median compliance, 26.5%). Predictors for increased hand hygiene compliance included the location of a hand hygiene station on an exit route, the presence of hand hygiene reminder signs, and the availability of running water.


Numerous deficiencies were encountered. Better education of petting zoo operators and the general public is needed. Provision of hand hygiene stations with running water that are placed near exits is one effective way to encourage compliance.

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