Group opposes petting zoos
The Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia is opposed to traveling zoos of any kind.
Animals used in traveling exhibitions are almost constantly confined to tiny transport cages or trailers. They suffer in extreme temperatures and are denied adequate food and water because transporters don’t want to bother with frequent stops to feed and water the animals and clean their cages.
Without exercise, animals become listless and are prone to illness, and as a reaction to stress and boredom, they may resort to self-mutilation.
Children who visit petting zoos can be subjected to various diseases. Health officials indicate that petting zoos are hotbeds of serious pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella bacteria. Experts warn that infections can spread through direct or even indirect animal contact.
The area surrounding the animal’s cage can be teeming with bacteria, and children can even bring it home on their clothing. The very young, the elderly and others with weakened immune systems are especially at risk. Wild animals also pose a risk of attacking and injuring zoo visitors and are not appropriate for use in petting zoos.
The Animal Welfare Act requires that animal exhibitors be licensed by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in order to ensure that exhibitors meet the AWA’s minimal requirements regarding animal care. The AWA requires little more than that exhibitors provide animals with sufficient food and water and enough room to stand up, turn around and lie down. In reality, no government agency can effectively regulate or enforce the humane treatment of animals that are continuously on the road.
The traveling zoo is not an educational experience for children. There is nothing natural about viewing these wild animals in a caged environment. Why not offer a humane alternative for entertainment? Either a demonstration of agility by dogs or a trainer working with a well -trained dog showing off training tips. Traveling carnival rides are entertaining for kids without the burden of the inhumane treatment of the animals.
In the grand tradition of the Forest Festival, in which many children participate in this wonderful annual event, we hope that you will join us in urging the Forest Festival Committee to provide alternate entertainment for children and adults alike.
Mary Ann McDonald