Stay healthy at animal shows

As we enter the season of shows, fairs and petting zoos there are important steps we can take to help people and our animals stay healthy

One of the most enjoyable activities of summer can be animal shows, fairs and petting zoos. While these events are fun and enriching experiences a few simple precautions can ensure that the health of animal and human participants is maintained.

Much like a small child who attends school for the first time, animals at shows and fairs are brought together from many different locations, possibly exposing one another to new viruses. Potential exposure to new germs and viruses is heightened for both animals and people.

While it is essential for the owners and exhibitors to ensure that their animals have been immunized with the appropriate inoculations, there are other pathogens that animals can share such as parasites and bacteria. While exhibiting, areas at risk for pathogen transmission include: pens, show rings, wash racks and trailers. Equipment for feeding, manure management and grooming animals also have the potential of transmitting pathogens.

To reduce risk, exhibitors have a number of safeguards available to them. In addition to giving exhibit animals the proper immunizations and health care, animals should be monitored regularly for signs of illness. Any animal that shows signs of stress or illness should not be on exhibit.

Exhibitors also need to be conscientious in managing manure. It is important to keep areas where spectators come into contact with the animals such as aisle ways, sidewalks and gates, clean of animal waste. Clearly labeling and keeping separate equipment used for managing manure from that used to feed the animals is also crucial.

Another good practice to follow is to wash boots, clothing and equipment used at an exhibition or fair prior to handling it at home to maintain animal health. For more information on how to keep exhibit animals safe see the Michigan State University Extension bulletin titled “Biosecurity for Livestock Exhibitors.”

Additionally, there is an increased likelihood of human-animal interactions at animal shows, fairs and petting zoos as well. Public viewing of animals within the reach of spectators can also increase risk of illness. Special care should be taken with children less than five years of age, older adults and pregnant women.

Encourage the washing of hands or use of hand sanitizer following contact with animals, especially prior to eating. This is particularly important for children who may touch animals and then use a bottle, pacifier or those carrying food and drinks.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has spectator recommendations for staying healthy at animal exhibits this summer. While animal shows, fairs and petting zoos can be a fun summertime activity, a few preventative measures can ensure that every stays healthy.

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