A petting zoo is essentially an exhibition, fixed or mobile, of animals (often juvenile) used for the entertainment of children. Petting zoos generally only keep animals while they are small and easily managed, and send them to farms or abattoirs where they will eventually be killed when they are no longer young and ‘cute’. Petting zoos teach children that animals exist for nothing more than human amusement, and that if we are able to confine and control animals, we are free to do as we please with them.

Unsurprisingly, being handled by hundreds of children in a day, where they may be poked, prodded, dropped, squeezed, and roughly handled by children, is extremely stressful for animals. In a world where humans’ relationship with animals is deeply fractured, there has never been a more crucial time to ensure we are teaching the next generation respect and compassion for the animals we share this planet with.

Sourced from the agriculture industry

Animals used in petting zoos are generally sourced from the animal industrial complex. All animals bred into the agriculture industry are done so with the view of exploiting them. Throughout our site you can find information on each sector of the animal exploitation industry where these animals are sourced from, offering insight into the harsh reality these animals are forced to endure from the time they are born to the time they are killed.

Travel stress

Travel is unavoidably stressful for animals. The stress of transport can be exacerbated by a number of different factors including humidity, changes in temperature, noise, handling and limited access to food and water. 

Animals used for mobile petting zoos travel from place to place almost constantly. Animals are often travelling to strange environments and venues that are unfamiliar to them and where they don’t feel safe or comfortable. 

Rapid changes in environment and routine is stressful for animals even in the context of just moving house. Animals exploited for petting zoos are forced to endure this type of stress throughout the entire time they are used for this purpose. 

Handling stress

Most animals, particularly prey animals like rabbits and lambs, do not like to be handled by humans constantly. In rabbits, for example, studies have found that as many as 60% of companion rabbits struggle when picked up, and can express fear-related aggression. Being picked up and handled is not natural to rabbits, and causes them huge amounts of stress when they are, as they believe, being preyed upon.

In a petting zoo environment animals are confined to small spaces where they have nowhere to escape children touching them and picking them up. Not only do animals have no choice in being handled by hundreds of people, but petting zoos are also often set up in busy areas where there is noise and huge crowds surrounding, only adding to the discomfort the animals experience.

Discarded when no longer ‘cute’

Petting zoos are only concerned with having cute animals who are easy to handle. This means that most animals in petting zoos are mere babies who have been separated from their mothers to suffer a life of constant travel and discomfort. However, when animals grow older and become more difficult to handle and less ‘cute’, petting zoos simply discard these animals to make way for new, cute, babies. 

Animals for petting zoos are sourced from the animal agriculture system, where they are bred and raised for eventual slaughter and consumption. Accordingly, petting zoo animals return to this system once they have been fully exploited for entertainment, and are killed. 

Often marketed as an educational experience, petting zoos offer no genuine form of education to children regarding their behaviour or how to respectfully interact with animals. Attending an animal sanctuary where children are taught how to appropriately interact with and respect animals, as well as educating them on how animal products are produced, is a much more educational experience.

Children feel a natural sense of compassion towards animals and generally hope to see them cared for and protected. Displaying animals in petting zoos only teaches children to begin disrespecting animals and desensitizes them to the cruelty animals face in modern society.

Alternatives – Australian Viewership

There are a number of animal sanctuaries that offer a genuinely educational experience about animals, and how we can interact with them respectfully, in a setting that is mutually beneficial.

Edgar’s Mission – Victoria

Edgar’s Mission is a not-for-profit sanctuary for rescued farmed animals that seeks to create a humane and just world for humans and non-humans. Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary is set on 153 peaceable acres situated just outside of Lancefield, nestled in the tranquillity of the Macedon Ranges.
If you wish to book to visit Edgar’s Mission you can do so on their website here.

Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary – Sydney

Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary was founded in 2014 to combat the abuses of animal agriculture and encourage a new awareness and understanding of farmed animals. They have rescued hundreds of farmed animals and cared for them at their sanctuary in Sydney, Australia. At Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary, these animals are friends, not food. We educate thousands of people about their plight and the effects of animal agriculture on health and the environment.

You can find information about visiting the sanctuary here.

Farm Animal Rescue – Queensland

Located in the beautiful Pine Rivers district 45 minutes north of the Brisbane CBD, 90 minutes from the Gold Coast and 45 minutes from the Sunshine Coast. Offer regular open days during which you can come along to visit the farm.

You can arrange a visit to Farm Animal Rescue here.

Death Row Unchained – Queensland

Deathrow Unchained is very different to other rescues, rescuing ALL animals from death row, from dogs to cats, to goats, pigs & reptiles. Their focus is on animals with days, sometimes hours, before they are due to be killed, providing transport, safety, vet care, family foster homes, as well as training and rehabilitation. They pride themselves on finding the most amazing fur-ever homes for their rescued animals.

They also have a wonderful sanctuary you can visit where many of the residents live out their days with love and comfort.

Greener Pastures Sanctuary – Western Australia

Set on 100 acres of beautiful and blissful countryside in Waroona, Western Australia; Greener Pastures Sanctuary is a family-run Sanctuary for animals who have been neglected, abandoned, mistreated, abused and rescued from slaughter. It’s a place where animals get to really live, where they’re loved just as much as any pet. They’ll never be sold for food or fashion. Instead, they spend their days helping around the house, celebrating their birthdays, bathing in the mud and showing the other animals who really rule the roost!

If you would like to visit Greener Pastures, follow the link here.

Furever Farm – South Australia

Furever Farm is a charity rescue/sanctuary/rehoming farm for rural animals in South Australia that relies entirely on donations and fundraising to provide for the unwanted, abused and orphaned.

To visit Furever Farm visit their website here.

Big Ears – Tasmania

Big Ears is an animal sanctuary located in Tasmania, Australia. They are home to more that 500 rescue animals including bovine, cats, geese, hen, turkeys, roosters, rabbits, birds, goats, donkeys, dogs, pigs, sheep and an emu. 

If you would like to visit Big Ears animal sanctuary contact them here.