Online Program

Observational study of facility practices and human interactions at petting zoos in Minnesota

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 4:30 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.

Elizabeth Schiffman, MA, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Jeff B. Bender, DVM, MS, DACVPM, Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Kirk Smith, DVM, MS, PhD, Minnesota Department of Health, St. Paul, MN
Joni Scheftel, DVM, MPH, Minnesota Department of Health, St. Paul, MN

Cara Cherry, DVM, University of Minnesota
Samantha Saunders, University of Minnesota
Alyssa Herreid, University of Minnesota
Human disease outbreaks associated with animal contact venues are reported annually. The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians has published recommendations on preventing illnesses and injuries associated with these venues. The purpose of this study was to evaluate compliance with these recommendations at county fair petting zoos in Minnesota. County fairs within 100 miles of Minneapolis/St. Paul were visited during July-August 2012. Facilities were evaluated on their compliance with disease prevention recommendations regarding: facility design, hand-washing facilities, signage, staff/visitor interaction, and animal care/management. Disease prevention risk scores for each component were created on a scale ranging from ‘not very important' to ‘very important'. A risk assessment tool was applied to each venue to estimate overall risk. Zoo visitors were observed to assess hand-washing compliance and the frequency of known risky behaviors. Thirty venues at 24 county fairs were evaluated. Median attendance was 285 people/hour (range 84–1716). Overall compliance with the recommendations was poor. Hand-washing percentages varied from 0–100% (median 34.5%). Known risky behaviors, such as unsupervised contact with animals (86%) and human food/beverage in animal areas (79%) were observed. The majority of venues were categorized as high risk, with the lowest scores in the hand-washing, staff/visitor interaction, and facility design components. Venues scored well in animal care and management. Despite detailed recommendations, implementation of prevention measures was poor. Most venues need to improve access to hand-hygiene facilities and provide supervision to encourage public compliance. The developed risk assessment tool provided a systematic review of risks at petting zoos.

Learning Areas:

Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the risk of human disease at animal contact venues. Identify methods to reduce the risk of human disease at animal contact venues.

Keyword(s): Risk Assessment, Animals and Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the lead researcher for this observational study and am in the process of finishing my MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. I have a strong interest in veterinary public health and both animal and human health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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