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Animals, big to small, cuddly to carnivorous, have a way of melting our hearts. Because we are emotional humans, that often manifests in a desire to show our affection. Due to domesticated animals like dogs, cats, and horses, showing animals love usually takes the form of petting them.

Well, that doesn’t always translate into a good thing. In fact, it frequently doesn’t, neither for the animal nor the person. Petting zoos have become a common way of fulfilling these types of wishes. They’ve even gotten the false reputation of being a good way to introduce children to animals.

And, of course, wild animals aren’t into humans touching them anyway. For that matter, most domesticated animals are huge fans of just any human touching, not to mention tugging or riding them any time that human wants.

Basically, petting zoos are just a bad idea. But let’s go over some of the situations to avoid:

1. Petting Farms

It seems like petting farms are a great way to interact with animals. These are domesticated animals that are accustomed to people, right? Well, even domesticated animals have their limits. Many might enjoy pets from trusted owners, but in general, strangers—particularly oodles of strangers, day after day—is something animals might not enjoy. But, they don’t have the ability to choose.

2. Sanctuaries

Sanctuaries seem like great places to have close encounters with wild animals. These animals have been rescued and can’t live fully natural lives, so they must love people, right? Nope. Even rescued wild animals like to be as wild as possible. They may have some unusual behaviors due to some reliance on humans. Sanctuaries with petting programs are missing the mark when it comes to putting the animals first.

3. Baby Animals

Baby animals are often the cuddliest of all animals. Even ferocious animals like tigers and bears have incredibly cute offspring. Plus, those furry kiddos love all the attention, right? Babies love the attention of their parents and (sometimes) siblings. Those in petting zoos have usually been removed from the protection of parents to allow people the opportunity to pet them.

4. Wild Animals

Source: National Geographic/Youtube

Wild animals prefer wild places where they can forage for food, roam as they place, hide when necessary, and choose their own interactions. Wild animals, no matter how docile they appear, are not tame. They don’t belong in cages and pens where humans can touch them. They don’t get to choose this for themselves and likely would not.

5. State Fairs

State fairs often have livestock elements to their festivities, and this frequently results in petting zoos or something similar. Even if breeders and owners seemingly love their animals and treat them well, those animals are, in fact, being confined and coerced to perform in specific ways to garner prizes. They haven’t chosen the life of a fair animal, and they haven’t volunteered to be petted by passersby.

6. Roadside Attractions

Unfortunately, many states (and countries) permit private citizens to own wild animals as pets. This can include tigers, monkeys, snakes, and so on. These animals often become unwilling participants in roadside attractions in which people can view them in enclosures and even sometimes “pet” them. These animals aren’t meant to be pets, and they aren’t naturally inclined to have these interactions with people.

7. Rides

Pony rides, donkey rides, horse rides, camel rides, elephant rides, and all of the above are obviously situations in which people get a chance to have contact with animals. Despite the commonality of some of these rider-animal arrangements, animals don’t get to elect their role in this. They don’t get to stop when they are tired or sick. They don’t get to choose who does and doesn’t get on them.

8. Circuses

Some circuses still somehow manage to have animals featured in their shows, and this includes interactive animal features in which guests can touch animals in enclosures. Without getting into petting at all, the constant motion and crowds of circus life is a horrible life for animals, wild and domesticated. Throw in getting touched by hundreds of unfamiliar faces and hands a day, and that’s torturous.

9. Shows

In reality, any animal show is just a bad place to attempt to relate to an animal or teach children about animals. The animals aren’t performing voluntarily. They are forcefully trained, no matter how much they seem to be enjoying it. If people are allowed to touch them after or during the show, that’s not treating the animals well. It’s abusing them.

10. Touch Tanks

Source: PETA/Youtube

Aquariums and places like Sea World will often have touch tanks that allow visitors to feel a shark or sting ray or some other, otherwise-unreachable aquatic creature. They aren’t meant to be touched by people. In fact, it can potentially make them sick and will undoubtedly cause them undue stress. After all, these animals aren’t just visiting folks at beaches for cuddles.

Petting zoos aren’t at all about education. They are about people getting to choose how they want to interact with animals without considering what’s right for the animals. Instead, we could watch documentaries where experts teach us about animals, and for true exposure to them, we could visit sanctuaries that don’t permit touching the rescued animals. That teaches our children to respect wildlife for being wild, and it shows that we love them enough to give them the space to be wild animals.

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