Petting Zoos

Zoonotic diseases (or Zoonoses) are diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans. An infected animal may pass on diseases caused by multiple agents such as parasites, fungi, viruses, or bacteria. The first signs and symptoms may appear two to seven days after the infection and may last up to two weeks. The most common infections caused by zoonotic diseases are Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), Cryptosporidiosis, ringworm, campylobacter, salmonella, and even rabies.

Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) is a microscope parasite that causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, weight loss, and a low-grade fever. Typically called "crypto," it can be spread in several different ways, commonly through drinking water and recreational water. Crypto can also be picked up from animal feces. Various strains of E. Coli can be transmitted by direct contact with petting zoo animals and they can cause very serious illnesses including intestinal hemorrhage and kidney disease.

To reduce the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease, the Chester County Health Department offers the following tips to help prevent illness when attending a petting zoo or any animal exhibit:
  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands immediately after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure.
  • Never allow children to put their hands or objects in their mouth while interacting with animals.
  • Wash your hands before and after eating and drinking.
  • Keep food and drinks out of animal areas.
  • Running water and soap are best.
  • Use hand sanitizers if running water and soap are not available.
Families are asked to notify the Chester County Health Department if they attend a petting zoo that does not have hand washing supplies, as this is a violation of County regulations.

Chester County Petting Zoo Rules and Regulations
Animal Exhibit Safety
Hand Washing Poster for Petting Zoos