Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement

Animal Exhibit Safety

Animal Exhibit Safety

Visits to farms, agricultural fairs and petting zoos provide an enjoyable experience and play a valuable role in educating children about animals.

Unfortunately, many children become sick each year because of a visit to an animal exhibit. It is important to remember that animals may carry germs that can be harmful to people. Operators of animal exhibits and people who accompany children to visit them can use the following information to ensure children do not become ill.

Information for parents and teachers

Download information for parents and teachers (PDF) (French)

Preparation for the visit

  • Bring handwipes and hand sanitizer for cleaning hands, Handwashing facilities may not be readily available.
  • Discuss safety precautions with children prior to the visit.
  • Discuss with children the importance of handwashing after handling or touching the animals and before eating.

Precautions while visiting

  • Ensure children are supervised while in the animal area.
  • If the children are eating snacks or lunch, ensure it is in a designated eating area where animals are excluded. Be sure children wash their hands prior to eating.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized apple cider.
  • Do not eat the animal food.
  • Do not kiss the animals.
  • Ensure that children do not climb on the animal enclosures.
  • Report any sick or aggressive animals to the people in charge. Ensure that a health care provider is consulted regarding any biting incidents.
  • Do not pick up anything from the ground in or around the animal pens.
  • Baby bottles, water bottles, pacifiers and toys should not be brought into the animal areas. Stroller trays should be properly cleaned after leaving the animal area.
  • Discourage hand–mouth activities (fingers, toys, pencils).

Most important

  • Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly
    • After touching the animals
    • After leaving the animal areas
    • Before eating

Information for operators of animal exhibits

Download information for operators of animal exhibits (PDF)(French)

Design of event

  • Ensure animal area is separate from eating areas.
  • Food/beverage should be prepared, stored, served and consumed only in the designated area.
  • Use signs to distinguish the animal area from the food area.
  • Control the flow of people by routing visitors toward the hand washing facilities when they leave the animal area and prior to entering the designated eating area.
  • Ensure that visitor areas are free from manure and that tools used for removing manure are stored in a designated area restricted from visitor access.
  • Clean and disinfect gates, animal pens, and divisions regularly. Frequency of cleaning depends on the types of animals present, how long the animals are available for viewing/visiting, and the frequency and volume of waste the animals produce.
    • Clean to remove soil and debris.
    • Disinfect using a proper solution, such as:
      • a bleach and water solution with a minimum of 2 tbsp (30ml) of household bleach to 1 litre of water
      • a commercially available disinfectant that can be found in the cleaning aisle. Ensure the product is used according to the manufacturer label.
  • Ensure animal feed provided for visitors is dispensed into a single-use container such as a paper cup. Do not use ice cream cones.
  • Hand washing facilities should have appropriate signage and be located next to the exit from the animal area. Where hand washing facilities are not available, a hand sanitizer station should be located at the exit.
  • Post signage advising visitors:
    1. no food/beverage, toys, or use of pacifiers/baby bottles/sippy cups in the animal area
    2. wash hands at the exit of the animal area and the entrance of the eating area
    3. avoid hand to mouth contact (thumb-sucking) while in the animal area

Animal Controls

  • Do not allow visitors to kiss the animals or put their mouth on materials within the animal enclosure.
  • Exclude sick, aggressive or stressed animals.
  • Remove manure regularly and replace bedding as needed.
  • If an animal bite occurs, advise the parent to consult a healthcare provider.

Educational information

  • Provide proper supervision in animal area to ensure appropriate human to animal interaction and to reduce the risk of disease transmission to visitors.
  • Ensure staff are appropriately trained about preventing disease transmission from animals to humans and are able to relay this information to visitors.
  • Provide risk information to visitors in a variety of ways (signage, brochures, verbal instructions, etc.).

More information

  • Do not serve unpasteurized dairy or cider products to the public.
  • If the animal area is to be used for public events (wedding, dance), these areas should be cleaned and disinfected prior to the event in order to reduce the risk of disease transmission. 
  • For more information on keeping your visitors healthy, visit CDC Stay Healthy at Animal Exhibits webpage