Petting Zoos, Petting Farms and Animal Exhibits

Fact Sheet Table of Contents

Recommendations for Petting Zoos, Petting Farms, Animal Exhibits Where Contact Between Animals and Humans Occur

Animals may carry parasites, bacteria, and other potentially infectious organisms to people. Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people are called Zoonotic diseases. They can be spread by direct contact with an infected animal and their feces. Certain groups of people may be more susceptible to zoonotic disease such as infants, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

To reduce the risk of infection for the public, the animal owner should adhere to the following recommendations:

  1. Close supervision must be provided when contact between animals and the public is permitted. According to the Animal Welfare Act of APHIS, USDA, "A responsible, knowledgeable, and readily identifiable employee or attendant must be present at all times during periods of public contact" (9CFR Ch. 1, section 2.131, 1-1-99 edition).
  2. Handwashing facilities should be made readily available to the public, and persons who handle or touch animals should be encouraged through signs and brochures to wash their hands with soap and water after touching any animals. If no running water is available, the use of waterless hand cleansers should be considered.
  3. All animals permitted to have contact with the public should be carefully observed daily for health problems. Sick animals or animals behaving strangely should be prevented from having contact with the public (isolated) and carefully observed, and a veterinarian should be notified.
  4. Visitors should not be allowed to sample animal feed or to drink raw milk.
  5. Visitors with open wounds on their hands should not be allowed to pet animals or to allow animals to lick their hands.
  6. Visitors should not allow animals to lick their faces.
  7. Eating and drinking by visitors should not be allowed near areas where animals are kept. Facilities for eating and drinking should be placed a minimum of 50 feet from any animal. Visitors who have touched animals should always wash their hands before eating, drinking or smoking.

Any questions about licensing should be directed to:
United States Department of Agriculture-Animal Care
920 Main Campus Dr. Suite 200
Raleigh, North Carolina 27606
(919) 855-7100