Introduction - Recommendations to prevent disease and injury associated with petting zoos in Ontario

Animal exhibits have been associated with numerous human disease outbreaks in Canada, the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

  • In Canada, a 1999 large outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Ontario’s Middlesex-London Health Unit was linked to a petting zoo at a local fair.
  • In 2003, British Columbia experienced an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that was linked to school and daycare visits to a petting zoo at a local farm.
  • In the U.S.A., more than 25 outbreaks were associated with animal exhibits in the decade 1990-2000.
  • Pennsylvania, Washington and Minnesota had outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 associated with farm visits between 2000 and 2001.
  • Petting zoos were linked with outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in North Carolina in 2004 and Florida in 2005.
  • Wisconsin had a Salmonella outbreak associated with swine contact in 2005.

Not all animal exhibit outbreaks were linked to direct animal contact.

  • A 1996 Salmonella outbreak in Colorado was linked to a contaminated wooden barrier at a zoo Komodo dragon exhibit.
  • A 2001 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at a fair in Ohio was linked to contact with an environment in which animals were exhibited the previous week.
  • Studies of sporadic cases of E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium also have identified farm visits as a significant risk factor for infection.

Although intestinal pathogens, such as salmonella and E. coli, account for many of the large outbreaks resulting from exposure to animal exhibits, many other zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, psittacosis, Q fever, orf and ringworm, presents a risk.