31/03/2023 - Permalink

Visiting a farm or petting zoo over the Easter break? Follow these safety tips for peace of mind

Related topics: Children's services / Health / Partner organisations

Zoos, farms and visitor attractions with animals are always popular with families, especially during school holidays, and in Shropshire there are lots to choose from for a fun day out.

When you are near to animals it is important to follow good hygiene practices to keep yourself and your children safe and well, as they do carry a risk from infectious diseases.

Two lambs running through a grassy field

Visiting a petting zoo or farm this Easter?

All animals naturally carry a range of micro-organisms, some of which can be passed on to humans, and they can cause people to become quite ill. Some of these, such as E coli or Cryptosporidium, present a serious health hazard and have the potential to cause serious illness which may be particularly severe in young children.

Following these practical steps will help your child stay safe and healthy:

  • Children should wash their hands in the following four situations: after contacting animals, before eating, before and after using play equipment, and when leaving the site. It will help to explain why they must wash their hands thoroughly in these situations and to show them what proper handwashing looks like. Bear in mind that alcohol gel is not a suitable substitute for proper hand washing with soap and running water – it doesn’t work against all micro-organisms.
  • Do not suck fingers or put hands, pens, pencils or crayons etc in mouths.
  • Check that cuts, grazes etc on children’s hands are covered with a waterproof dressing.
  • Do not kiss animals.
  • Eat only food that you have brought with you or food for human consumption that you have bought on the premises and eat only in designated areas.
  • Never eat food that has fallen to the ground.
  • Never taste animal foods.
  • Children should not eat, drink or chew anything (including sweets) outside the areas designated for eating at the visitor attraction.
  • Where possible, clean or clean and change footwear before leaving. The site should have facilities to clean footwear and pushchair/pram wheels as you leave the site. Wash hands after cleaning/changing footwear.
  • Do not use or pick up tools (eg spades and forks) or touch other work equipment unless permitted to do so by site staff.
  • Do not climb on to walls, fences, gates or animal pens etc. Some animals put their feet on the fences of their pens and contaminate them with faecal matter.
  • Listen carefully and follow the instructions and information given by the site staff
  • Do not wander off into unsupervised or prohibited areas eg manure heaps
  • Allow plenty of time for hand washing before eating or leaving the site so that the children do not have to rush.
  • If a member of your group shows signs of illness (eg sickness or diarrhoea) after a visit, speak to a doctor and explain that you have had recent contact with animals. Please also contact the attraction you visited and inform them of the illness.

Follow the guidance for keeping safe when you visit animals this Easter, and enjoy the chance to learn and play in peace of mind.