Fairs and Petting Zoos
Wash your hands often
Millions of people go to agricultural fairs and petting zoos every year, and children of all ages love to be around the animals. By following some simple steps you can enjoy animals and help prevent illness from contact with animal germs.
Handwashing with soap and water is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E.coli and Salmonella, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact.
Some people are more likely to get sick:
- Pregnant women
- Older adults
- Those with weakened immune systems
However, anyone can get sick, so everyone should wash their hands with soap and water right after leaving the animal areas. Adults should supervise young children to make sure they don’t put their hands in their mouths and ensure that their hands are washed thoroughly.
Even healthy animals can carry germs that make people sick. These germs can live for months in animal bedding, flooring, pens, soil, clothing, shoes and other things that they touch if the surfaces are not appropriately cleaned. An animal’s fur, skin, and saliva can also carry germs that can then be passed to people. To reduce your chances of illness, never eat or drink in animal areas. Leave items that can become contaminated, such as toys, strollers, bottles, or pacifiers outside of these areas. And ALWAYS WASH your hands after visiting animal areas or petting animals.
Animal Venue Operators (and Fair Organizers)
An animal venue operator is a person, company, or entity who offers a setting where public contact with animals is encouraged, such as a petting zoo, county fair, or horse or pony rides. Animal venue operators have responsibilities under Washington State rules to help prevent diseases from being transferred from animals to people.
An animal venue operator shall provide a handwashing station or alternative hand sanitizing method and post a prominent sign in a simple and easy-to-understand format for visitors to see before they enter the animal exhibit area which warns that:
- Animals can carry germs that can make people sick, even animals that appear healthy.
- Eating, drinking, or putting things in a person’s mouth in animal areas could cause illness.
- Older adults, pregnant women, immunocompromised people, and young children are more likely to become ill from contact with animals.
- Young children and individuals with intellectual disabilities should be supervised in animal exhibit areas.
- Strollers, baby bottles, pacifiers, and children’s toys are not recommended in animal exhibit areas.
Animal venue operators must also post a prominent sign at each exit of the animal exhibit area reminding visitors to wash their hands. To comply with this rule, an animal venue operator can create their own signs, or they can use the following:
- Fair “Wash Your Hands” Poster series
- Washington State Department of Health Animal Venue Operator Requirements. Questions can be directed to the Zoonotic Disease Program.
- Zoonotic Disease Prevention Toolkit for Fairs by the Washington State Department of Health
- CDC’s Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings