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Petting Zoos

A petting zoo is a facility, operation or activity where living animals are displayed to the public in a manner in which direct contact by the public with animals is promoted or encouraged, and not merely incidental or casual. Petting zoos regulated by the Department may include, but are not limited to: animal rides, carnival animal exhibits, circuses, fairs, performing animal exhibitions, pet shops, petting zoos, photo opportunities, shows and zoos.

Other Animal Facilities

The requirements of Article 17 do not apply to: equestrian facilities, such as equine performances, rides, demonstrations, or parades; animal hospitals; animal shelters; humane societies; boarding or breeding kennels/catteries; dog and cat shows; or, any establishment with the purpose of training, leasing, or selling guard or service animals. The requirements of Article 17 do not apply to wildlife rehabilitators licensed pursuant to New York State Environmental Conservation Law at

Pet Shops

Under routine circumstances, a pet shop is not required to obtain permit to operate a petting zoo, but most comply with contagious disease restricitions and signage requirements. Pet shops are also subject to regulation by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets



The petting zoo regulations were promulgated to ensure that the public understand that contact with animals can be a route of infection for certain zoonotic diseases that can cause serious illness, and even death, in humans. These regulations were adopted with guidance from the regulated community and expand on public health protections found in the code, rules and regulations of other agencies or guidance of other organizations. These include: Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease and Injury Associated with Animals in Public Settings, Fair Season Regulations, Model State Program for the Management of Livestock in Rabies Enzootic Areas. 

Operating Permits

Permits are required Yes. Contact the Department at the address above or call (631) 852-5841.


Bites & Scratches

At a petting zoo, any bite or nonbite exposure should immediately be reported to the petting zoo operator. Try to identify the individual animal as best as possible by noting its color, color pattern or identity tag if visible. A bite exposure is any penetration by mouth to the skin of humans or animals. A nonbite exposure is a scratch, abrasion, open wound, or contamination of mucous membranes with saliva or other potentially infectious material from a rabid animal. Depending on the animal and the circumstances, a scratch can be considered a potential rabies exposure.

The Department's primary concern is with bites from mammalian animal species that can carry the Rabies virus such as typical farm animals (sheep, cows, horses, etc.) or domestic animals (dog, cats, ferrets, etc.). Bites from non-mammalian animals, such as chickens, parrots, reptiles etc., are not Rabies virus carriers. Wounds sustained from non-mammalian animals should be, at least, cleaned and disinfected as soon as practical after the incident.

Any mammalian bite, regardless of where it occurred, should be reported to the Department of Health Services at (631) 854-0333. The Department will investigate the bite circumstances and assess the potential rabies transmission risk. As appropriate, the Department will require confinement or testing of the animal.

Zoonotic Disease

A zoonotic disease or infection is one transmitted between vertebrate animals and man. The focus of Article 17 is the protection of public health by minimizing the potential for zoonotic infections caused by bacteria such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli) and the rabies virus as described above.

Hand Washing

The bacterial diseases of concern are most importantly, though not exclusively, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. They are characterized by vomiting, and/or diarrhea, which can be severe and even fatal in the young, the elderly or the immunocompromised. In a petting zoo setting, these diseases are transmitted primarily by hand to mouth contact, which is why there is so much emphasis in the code relating to washing hands after contact with the animals.

After touching an animal, the hands should be washed with soap and water before eating, drinking, smoking, or in any other way putting the hand to the mouth. Children's toys or pacifiers should not be allowed to come in contact with an animal and should be washed thoroughly before allowing the child to put in their mouth after they have been through an exhibit.



Contact the Department at 360 Yaphank Ave., Suite 2A, Yaphank, NY 11980:
(631) 852-5841

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901