Risk Analysis of Disease Transmission - Recommendations to prevent disease and injury associated with petting zoos in Ontario

Factors that increase risk – animals and displays

  • Animal stress – through factors such as overcrowding – can contribute to increased shedding of disease-causing agents.
  • Animals are more likely to be shedding certain agents (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7) in the summer and fall.
  • Young animals may shed more disease-causing agents than adults.
  • Birds, reptiles and amphibians shed more of disease-causing agents than other animals.
  • Inadequate staffing and lack of supervision.
  • Inadequate hand hygiene facilities.

Factors that increase risk – visitors

  • Not washing, or improperly washing, hands after animal contact.
  • Lack of child supervision.
  • Touching hands to the mouth – through activities such as thumb-sucking, smoking and eating, and the use of pacifiers – in proximity to animals.
  • Lack of knowledge about the risk factors of human-animal contact.

High Risk Groups

  • Pregnant women and the elderly, because they may have reduced immunity.

  • Children under 5, because they have immature immune systems and may engage in inappropriate behaviour.
  • Immunocompromised persons: persons with weakened immune systems due to immunosuppressive drugs or disease.
  • The cognitively impaired because of potentially high-risk behaviour.
  • Those at high risk – or those supervising them – should be informed through signs, handouts and/or staff to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. 
  • Children under 5 should not come in contact with reptiles, amphibians (frogs and toads), birds, young ruminants under six months old (cattle, sheep, goats, deer—hoofed animals that chew cud.) or their immediate environment, because these animals shed proportionally more disease-causing agents.
  • Events that are open to children of all age groups should not display these animals such that they, or their immediate environment, can be contacted.