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What is the RSPCA’s view on petting zoos and other types of animal encounters?

There are many examples of situations where humans, especially children come into close “hands-on” contact with animals such as petting zoos, agricultural shows, city farms and other locations (including where dolphins are kept in captivity) where animals are kept specifically for human-animal interactions. Several different species are often mixed in a confined area including, poultry (chickens and ducks, including ducklings; rabbits; guinea pigs; piglets and lambs). There are many welfare risks associated with these interactions including distress, injury and even death. Most States do not have mandatory standards to safeguard the welfare of these animals, which in many cases are young and therefore extremely vulnerable.

RSPCA Australia advocates the adoption of compulsory standards for the welfare of animals in petting zoos and animal encounters as well as adequate monitoring and enforcement.

Such activities must be closely managed to ensure that the handling and feeding of animals by visitors is properly supervised and controlled. Animals must be chosen for their suitability for handling and not be subjected to injury, suffering, distress or excessive disturbance. All interactions must be supervised by competent personnel who will intervene to remove an animal whose welfare is at risk as well as promptly isolate and treat any sick or injured animals. In addition, each operator must use a consulting veterinarian to provide services for preventative health care, treatment and advice regarding prevention of transmission of diseases to humans. Also, very high standards must be provided for the general care, management and transport of animals used in these activities.

Only a couple of States have developed welfare standards including;

New South Wales


For other states/territories you should contact the State Department responsible for animal welfare in that State.

NOTE: If you are concerned about the welfare of an animal, suspect animal cruelty or that an animal is suffering please contact the relevant state RSPCA Inspectorate as soon as possible: https://www.rspca.org.au/report-cruelty

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Updated on May 6, 2022
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