Q We moved to a new town, and there’s a petting zoo nearby. We’d love to let our kids explore, but we don’t have much experience around farm animals. Should we be cautious around some breeds more than others? How do we know if the animals are healthy?
C.G., Rochester, NY
A I love opportunities for children to learn and interact with animals safely! I still remember reaching out to pet the little sheep and goats at the zoo from the safety of my mother’s arms. Petting zoos are great—they pique interest and cultivate compassion for animals. When you visit, simply follow some common-sense hygiene practices, and you will be able to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens such as E. coli, cryptosporidium, and salmonella. First and foremost, make sure that you and your kids wash your hands immediately following contact with animals. If a hand washing station is not readily available, use alcohol based hand sanitizer to thoroughly clean everyone’s hands until you can find a place to properly wash with soap and water. Second, never eat or drink or allow small ones to have their pacifiers while you’re in the animal enclosure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children younger than the age of 5 refrain from handling reptiles, amphibians, or live poultry of any kind— including baby ducks and chickens—as they are most likely to spread disease. All that being said