Recently, my family went to an Ontario aviary/animal park. It was possible to touch many of the animals, and contact was encouraged because they sold food for the animals. The kids enjoyed having contact with animals, but this facility was an example of completely inadequate (or negligent) infection control practices. There’s actually not much wrong with the picture in this post. The problem is that there was absolutely no means for people to wash or disinfect their hands after touching the animals. This is truly astounding in this day and age, with the increased awareness of the need for hand hygiene in these situations. Even at small, temporary animal exhibits and local fairs, handwashing facilities have become standard. I can’t fathom why a large, permanent animal park wouldn’t be set up properly. (It was even possible for people to touch aquatic turtles, which are very high risk for Salmonella transmission, but that’s another story. More information on turtles can be found on the Resources page).
What do you do if you want to have contact with animals but don’t know whether you’ll be able to wash your hands? Bring your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They’re cheap, easy to find and effective, and it never hurts to have them on hand (pardon the pun).
Discussion of other petting zoo issues and links to other resources can be found in our Petting Zoo archives.