Pros and Cons of Petting Zoos

The joy on a child’s face after they get to interact with the gentle and sweet petting zoo animals will leave a lasting impression, and a memorable experience. Almost all children can say that they love animals and have begged their parents to take a stop by the petting zoo while out and about on a trip to the aquarium, zoo, or local community event. Petting zoos offer many benefits for young children, but in turn, can be detrimental to the animals. Awareness and understanding of these pros and cons should be identified before taking a trip to your local petting zoo to ensure you and your child(ren) get the best out of the experience.

As children interact with animals, they learn their unique behaviors. Petting zoos can be very favorable learning experiences. Young children who have never witnessed animals outside their household cats and dogs can learn to be compassionate towards others and build their courage. Along with social skills petting zoos offer hands-on activities such as feeding, petting, and grooming the animals. These activities are shown in studies to engage both sides of the brain, unlike daily learning in the classroom. Brain scans on young children who have interacted with petting zoo animals before show an increased activity in sensory and motor-related areas of the brain when thinking about concepts they had hands-on experience with. Petting zoos are great for young children as well because of the immense amount of sensory input. Almost all five senses are used in children who visit the petting zoo. Along with being an educational experience, it is also memorable and fun. Chloe Cougenhour loved visiting the petting zoo as a child because “the goats are funny to watch run around.” She also likes the baby cows because they’re super cute and friendly. The petting zoo will be a favorite place for children without a doubt, and gets you outside to enjoy the fresh air! Although it is a great place for kids and families to make memories, the petting zoo is not always in the best interest of the animals.

Petting zoos can be potentially harmful to both people, the animals, and society overall. There are many ways that these animals can be harmful towards people and vice versa. Animals tend to react differently to everyone. For their owners and their caretakers, they tend to be very gentle and delicate with them. For people visiting them, they may act differently since they don’t know these strangers and they may become tense and act up towards these people. People can also be harmful towards the animals. Some people weren’t brought up to have respect for animals, so they may end up harming them. They could harm the animals by putting too much pressure on them when they are petting them, or they could overfeed the animals. Some other factors that play a role in petting zoos is the idea that the animals can become overly stressed. They can become overly stressed by the concept of large crowds and people being very noisy. They also may become stressed because parents and children may just reach into their enclosures with no fair warning and it could startle the animals. The animals are also kept in confined spaces only. They do not enjoy this since they don’t have the freedom to roam as they can in their natural habitat. Both stress and being in a confined space can cause animals to develop behavioral problems. Research has shown this in both animals and people. A 2018 Pennridge High School graduate Camryn Quaste who works at a local wildlife rehabilitation center says that “any animal that tends to have behavioral problems, is most likely too stressed and the only thing we can really do is to separate them from other animals and hope that this helps them relieve stress.” These are only some of the cons of petting zoos. 

Furthermore, there are many benefits to having petting zoos and also downfalls. Most people will only look at the positives but in reality, people need to be informed about the negatives as well. The negatives of petting zoos also relate to the negatives of zoo animals and horses in the equestrian world, such as horse racing. Petting zoos have been very popular since 1938 when the first petting zoo was created in London, England. Most people have been to petting zoos at least once in their life, but if you haven’t, it is an amazing experience.