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A petting zoo is a zoo which keeps domesticated farm animals such as horses, goats, and sheep, along with some tame wild animals, like deer or turtles. Visitors to the petting zoo can see the animals, interact with them, and usually feed them as well. Staff at the petting zoo educate guests about the animals they keep, and for people in urban areas, a petting zoo can create a connection with animals which fosters respect and kindness. In addition, visiting a petting zoo can simply be fun.
Often, a petting zoo is called a children's zoo, because the experience is aimed primarily at children. Many conventional zoos have a petting zoo area in which children can wander around with their parents or guardians. Zoo staff lead tours of the petting zoo and offer informational talks and lectures to people who want to know more about the animals. In the spring, when there are numerous baby animals, the petting zoo sometimes lets visitors interact with the animals and their young.
A children's activity center may also include a petting zoo as part of its offerings. Unfortunately, the animals kept in these petting zoos tend not to be as healthy and well cared for as animals in a petting zoo attached to a regular zoo. Keeping farm animals does require skill and patience, and the staff in a children's center are not always up to the task. It is also important to have ample room for the animals to run and play in, an issue which is sometimes left unaddressed by the designers of these lesser petting zoos.
Interacting with farm animals can teach children about how farm animals live and socialize. In addition to hoofed farm animals, many petting zoos also have pigs and poultry such as ducks, chickens, and geese. The animals are selected for gentle temperaments, and children are encouraged to handle the animals so that they can learn more about them. Calm wild animals are also used to introduce children to the natural world.
Because many animals carry bacteria, even animals which are healthy and well cared for, a responsible visit to a petting zoo includes washing up. Especially if you are visiting other parts of the zoo afterwards, you could accidentally carry something to an animal which might be susceptible to it. Some petting zoos include tubs for dipping your shoes in after your visit, and all of them should provide bathroom facilities with space to wash your hands.
lots of great information! petting zoos are always huge hit with kids, so if you're looking for something fun to do, it's always a good idea. unfortunately, later in the day, some animals get a little "overfed," and lose interest in the food your child may be offering. conversely, i'm sure there are times when the animals can get a little over-exuberant with the kids, trying to get at the kids. for smaller kids, you may want to time when you go keeping this in mind. also, bring tons of purell with you to clean off those hands!