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What Is a Petting Zoo?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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A petting zoo is a zoo which keeps domesticated farm animals such as horses, goats, and sheep, along with some tame wild animals, like deer or turtles. Visitors to the enclosure can see the animals, interact with them, and usually feed them as well. Staff educates guests about the animals they keep, and for people in urban areas, a petting zoo can create a connection with animals which fosters respect and kindness. In addition, visiting a petting zoo can simply be fun. If you have an ESA, you may have to call in advance if they will allow your pet in and whether you need to show them a legitimate proof of ESA registration. There might be a chance that your pet can threaten the animals in the zoo or vice versa, so give the facility a heads up before you come in.

Often, a petting zoo is called a children's zoo, because the experience is aimed primarily at children. Many conventional zoos have a special area where children can wander around with their parents or guardians. Zoo staff lead tours of the enclosure and offer informational talks and lectures to people who want to know more about the animals. In the spring, when there are numerous baby animals, the petting zoo sometimes lets visitors interact with the animals and their young. For safety, always remember that these are untrained animals and will not behave in a predictable way like an emotional support pet or a service animal.

A children's activity center may also include a petting zoo as part of its offerings. Unfortunately, the animals kept in these enclosures tend not to be as healthy and well cared for as animals at a regular zoo. Keeping farm animals does require skill and patience, and the staff in a children's center are not always up to the task. It is also important to have ample room for the animals to run and play in, an issue which is sometimes left unaddressed by the designers of these lesser petting zoos.

Interacting with farm animals can teach children about how farm animals live and socialize. A warning to the adult supervising young kids though - these animals are very different from domesticated pets or support animals. Exercise caution and do not be too trusting with them. In addition to hoofed farm animals, many facilities also have pigs and poultry such as ducks, chickens, and geese. The animals are selected for gentle temperaments, and children are encouraged to handle the animals so that they can learn more about them. Calm wild animals are also used to introduce children to the natural world.

Because many animals carry bacteria, even animals which are healthy and well cared for, a responsible visit includes washing up. If you have a support animal and you want to bring it with you, you may have to notify the zoo in advance. ESA services are special cases which are usually treated as such in these types of establishments.  Especially if you are visiting other parts of the zoo afterwards, you could accidentally carry something to an animal which might be susceptible to it. Some petting zoos include tubs for dipping your shoes in after your visit, and all of them should provide bathroom facilities with space to wash your hands. Call the petting zoo in advance if you plan to bring an emotional support animal with you. Take all your ESA registration requirements as well in case they want to see documentation.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseTour researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By surreptitious — On Jul 06, 2008

lots of great information! petting zoos are always huge hit with kids, so if you're looking for something fun to do, it's always a good idea. unfortunately, later in the day, some animals get a little "overfed," and lose interest in the food your child may be offering. conversely, i'm sure there are times when the animals can get a little over-exuberant with the kids, trying to get at the kids. for smaller kids, you may want to time when you go keeping this in mind. also, bring tons of purell with you to clean off those hands!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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