Human Food and Beverage Consumption - Recommendations to prevent disease and injury associated with petting zoos in Ontario

  • Food and beverages should be prepared, served and consumed only in non-animal areas. Animal areas should be well-defined, separate areas, with food outside the boundaries of these areas and hand hygiene facilities provided in between.
  • Provide hand hygiene facilities and display hand hygiene signs where food or beverages are served.
  • Operators should not allow food, beverages (including water bottles), spill-proof cups (“sippy-cups”), and baby bottles in animal areas.
  • Food that is being stored, prepared, displayed or transported in the site should be protected from dust, insects, and other contamination.
  • Operators must not provide unpasteurized milk.
  • Operators must not provide ungraded eggs. This does not apply to ungraded eggs sold on a producer’s own farm to consumers for their own consumption.
  • Animals, including event animals, wild birds, free-roaming animals and domestic animals, must not be permitted in eating areas or food  preparation areas where they may shed disease-causing agents.  Service dogs may be permitted in those areas of the food premises where food is served, sold or offered for sale. See s.60 of Regulation 562 (Food Premises) made under the HPPA.

These recommendations do not include all of the food safety requirements outlined in Regulation 562 (Food Premises). You should contact your local Public Health Inspector before opening to discuss specific food safety requirements.

Animal Care and Management

Petting zoo operators should work with a veterinarian to develop a preventive care program appropriate for the species, including vaccination and parasite control. They should have up-to-date vaccination/health certificates for individual animals or herd/flock health certificates, signed by a licensed veterinarian, available upon request by public health officials.

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Rabies prevention

Regulation 567 (Rabies Immunization) made under the HPPA specifies that all cats and dogs that are 3 months of age or over must be vaccinated against rabies and that this vaccination must be kept up-to-date according to the veterinary recommendations relating to the specific animal. Consult your local Public Health Inspector for information on these requirements.

Petting zoo operators should:

  • Consult a veterinarian about vaccination of other mammals, in addition to those required by the HPPA. All mammals, for which vaccine use has been approved by a veterinarian, should be vaccinated against rabies unless they are accessible only by those responsible for their care.
  • Prevent public access to unvaccinated mammals with solid (glass/plastic) or double barriers.
  • Not allow public contact with mammals too young to be vaccinated for rabies, unless restrictive measures are available to reduce risks. For example, by using only animals that were born to vaccinated mothers and housed to avoid rabies exposure.
  • Administer rabies vaccine to unvaccinated mammals and mammals not up-to date on their rabies vaccination at least 1 month prior to contact with the public because of the extended incubation period for rabies.
  • House animals to reduce potential exposures from wild animals that are common sources of rabies, such as skunks, raccoons, foxes, and bats.

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Psittacosis/Ornithosis

Since psittacosis/ornithosis can be spread when a person inhales dust and bacteria from the dried droppings of any type of bird, operators/staff should:

  • Use cage cleaning and feeding methods that minimize air circulation of feathers, dust and droppings.
  • Ensure cages are not cleaned when the public is present.
  • Wear a disposable NIOSH-approved N95 mask when cleaning cages if you believe there is a risk of generating airborne dust and particulate.
  • Masks should be tested for fit according to the manufacturer's recommendations. In addition, masks should be checked for fit each time the mask is put on. To check the mask, the wearer takes a quick, forceful inspiration to determine if the mask seals tightly to the face. For instructions on how to best use the N95 mask or equivalent, refer to the handout provided by the manufacturer, or follow your provincial regulations.
  • Prevent the public from contacting psittacine birds (including parrots, parakeets and cockatiels) or their environment. The majority of human cases of psittacosis/ornithosis are due to contact with psittacine birds.

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Animal Health

Petting zoo operators should:

  • Not exhibit ill animals, animals known to be infected with a zoonotic agent, and animals from herds/flocks with a recent history of suspected infectious abortion or diarrhea.
  • Monitor animals daily for signs of illness, injury and stress, such as diarrhea, failure to eat or drink, inability to rise or walk, and nasal or other discharge.
  • Develop a process for dealing with ill, injured or distressed animals, which should include isolation from other animals and the public, and appropriate veterinary care. It is recommended that operators have a list of local veterinarians and their phone numbers on hand.
  • Remove the ill, injured or distressed animal (on veterinary advice) from the facility for the appropriate treatment/euthanasia.
  • If an animal is ill and a zoonotic disease is suspected, restrict public access to the contaminated area and the animals within until the area has been cleaned and disinfected. Veterinary and public health personnel should be promptly consulted to determine whether there has been any potential exposure of people or other animals, and whether any other measures need to be taken.
  • Provide species-specific housing for animals, following the Recommended Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals for livestock External Link and the Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines for exotics External Link.
  • Try to prevent nose-to-nose contact among animals from different farms or premises.
  • Avoid sharing equipment used for other animals, especially if it is contaminated with manure, urine or saliva.
  • Screen elephants, cervids, such as deer, moose, elk, and caribou, and non-human primates for tuberculosis by, or under the guidance of, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinarian.

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Animal Births

Petting zoo operators should:

  • Prevent public contact with animal birthing by-products.
  • Preferably, hold such events outside. If held indoors, ventilation should be maximized. Animals may shed zoonotic agents during birthing, which may be spread by airborne transmission.
  • Thoroughly clean the environment after each birth. Double-bag and promptly remove all birthing by-products, aborted fetuses, stillborn animals, and any contaminated bedding material.

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Dangerous Animals

Animals not recommended for contact with the public:

  • Non-human primates – such as monkeys and apes.
  • Large carnivores – meat eaters such as wolves, lions and tigers.
  • Venomous or toxin-producing animals – some spiders, snakes and frogs.
  • Mammals with a higher risk of transmitting rabies – such as bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons.
  • Prairie dogs, which can transmit plague.
  • Aggressive or unpredictable animals – wild or domestic.
  • Animals with nursing young – the mother may display unpredictable and protective behaviour, and the young are susceptible to infection and stress.

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Injury Prevention and Control

Petting zoo operators should:

  • Ensure first aid facilities are well stocked and conveniently located to staff and the public.
  • Develop written procedures for dealing with injured people and escaping from enclosures. Train staff in these procedures.
  • Establish an isolation area for aggressive/ill/distressed animals.
  • Make animals individually identifiable to the public and staff. For example, if a visitor is injured by a goat in an enclosure full of goats, they should be able to identify the offending animal by some individual marker (e.g., ear tags or collars).

Assign trained staff in animal areas to reduce risk by:

  • Encouraging appropriate human-animal contact.
  • Preventing/rectifying situations that could lead to injuries or aggressive exhibit animal behaviour.
  • Processing reports of visitor injuries.

Instruct staff and appropriate volunteers/teachers how to:

  • Identify aggressive and distressed animal behaviour.
  • Prevent visitors from harming or provoking animals.
  • Fully document all witnessed or reported incidents and notify event operators.
  • Locate first aid facilities/resources and treat injuries.
  • Deal with escaped animals.
  • Maintain proper visitor flow to avoid overcrowding in the animal area, since overcrowding may lead to unwanted animal exposure and injuries. 
  • Keep walkways clear and free of hazards.
  • Instruct visitors to immediately report bites and scratches to event staff.
  • Retain incident reports for at least 6 months for public health investigation.

Any animal bite or other animal contact that may result in rabies in persons (such as scratches that break a person’s skin, or contamination of a wound with saliva) must, by law, be reported immediately to the local Medical Officer of Health. If a person is bitten or scratched, advise the person to contact their local health unit (see Appendix D for Health Unit contact information).

All employers who are subject to the Occupational Health and Safety Act must comply with the First Aid Requirements of Regulation 1101 under Section 3 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. Contact your local Workplace Safety and Insurance Board External Link(WSIB) office for more information about first aid program requirements.

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