CAPS has today launched a new campaign to educate parents and teachers on the dangers of booking mobile petting zoos or live animal parties for their children. The campaign, which was developed in the wake of the conviction last year of a mobile zoo owner for 34 animal welfare offences, highlights issues ranging from animal welfare to child safety and recommends that families choose “animal and child friendly” alternatives in place of an animal handling party or class activity.
There are currently thought to be around 160 mobile petting zoo businesses operating in the UK alone and, unlike traditional zoos, these businesses are not subject to licensing laws so are effectively unregulated. The animals are therefore, says the charity, vulnerable to abuses. In addition, experts have warned of the serious disease risk associated with children handling exotic animals such as reptiles; reporting that over 60% of human illnesses are thought to be of animal origin. Salmonella, for example, can be passed from reptiles to people and is estimated to be responsible for around 6,000 infections each year in the UK alone. Over half of the animals used by mobile petting zoos are reptiles.
The campaign uses an attractive website to provide easy-to-digest information to parents and teachers, allowing them to make up their own minds. In addition, detailed educational resources are provided free-of-charge for teachers who want an animal-themed lesson without using real animals. Alternatives to animal-handling parties are offered and members of the public are encouraged to take a pledge to promise that they will not book a mobile zoo in the future.
The campaign is supplemented by a short animated film, illustrated by award-winning cartoonist, Tony Husband.
Says Liz Tyson, Director of CAPS, on the new campaign:
“We have become increasingly concerned about the sharp increase in businesses hiring out animals for handling sessions over the last few years. A heartbreaking case which led to the confiscation of over 70 animals that were being kept in shocking conditions last year triggered the development of this new campaign which we hope will be helpful for parents and teachers who want to understand the risks involved in these types of events. We are not just concerned for the animals but also for children, who can be exposed to disease as a direct result of handling exotic animals”.
Following the conviction of owner of Tropical Inc. mobile zoo in November 2013, a number of the company’s former clients have confirmed that they will not book this, or similar companies, going forward.
Ms Tyson added:
“These businesses are on the increase and we believe it is vital that parents and teachers are informed of the risks before making that booking”.
Find out more about the campaign by visiting the website.