Fair and Petting Zoo Safety

A resource for fair and petty zoo legal cases and outbreak prevention, sponsored by Marler Clark

Fair and Petting Zoo Safety:  Preventing E. coli Outbreaks

Petting zoos and Agricultural Fairs give urbanites a chance to connect with their rural roots.  Kids and adults alike can’t resist furry or feathered farm animals.

While everyone knows that farm animals can sometimes cause injury by biting or kicking, not everyone is aware that these same animals can carry dangerous germs that cause serious illness, especially in young children.

What diseases can I or my child get from animals at a petting zoo or agricultural fair?

  • E.coli O157:H7
  • Shiga toxin E coli ( such E. coli )
  • Salmonella
  • Cryptosporidia
  • Campylobacter

How does it happen?

Many disease causing bacteria (germs) are present in farm animals manure.  If a person touches something that has been contaminated with manure they could get it on their hands.  If that person doesn’t wash their hands before eating or making food,  the food can become contaminated with those germs and the person could come down with foodborne illness.

Who is at risk?

While anyone is at risk for these diseases, young children, persons with compromised immune systems and the elderly are particularly at risk for these types of illnesses.  Of particular concern for young children is infection with E. coli O157:H7 as it can cause a serious potentially life-threatening complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). 

What can I do to prevent illness while at a petting zoo/agricultural fair?

  • Contact the petting zoo/fair to see if they have hand-washing facilities.
  • Don’t allow you child to eat while petting the animals.
  • Wash hands after contact with animals.
  • Wash hands before eating.
  • Keep track of pacifiers!  Pacifiers can easily become contaminated at the petting zoo or fair. Be sure to disinfect pacifiers before putting into your child’s mouth.
  • More information (link to prevention site visiting a petting zoo/agricultural fair)

What can I do if I own/operate a petting zoo or agricultural fair?

Prevention for Owners/Operators of Petting Zoos or Agricultural Fairs