Museum ends petting zoo visits over new welfare rules
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
A Norfolk museum has said it will no longer be hosting petting zoos as part of its programme of events following changes to welfare rules.
Bressingham Steam and Gardens, near Diss, has previously included visiting zoos at special events and family days offering visitors the chance to get up close to both domestic and exotic animals.
A change in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 means mobile zoos that provide exotic animals for events now require a licence to operate in England.
The Animal Activity Licence is granted after an inspection of the living conditions and treatment of the animals with owners facing fines up to £2,000 for noncompliance to regulations.
A promotional video for forthcoming Halloween events at Bressingham includes footage of people with animals, but the museum website states: "Please note that we will not be having a petting zoo this year. Due to new animal welfare legislation we have decide not to pursue this for future events."
Museum curator Phillip Rooke said they had added the update because they "didn't want to give visitors the wrong impression".
He said: "We used to have visiting petting zoos of the type you get at events and fetes but the new legislation meant that the people we had worked with for a few years decided to close their business because the increased costs that meant they could not make it work.
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"There are still companies in Norfolk and Suffolk that do it, and I found other visiting zoos, but some have not got the correct licensing so we thought we have got to be acting in best practice so it was simply easier just not to have them."
One of the museum's previous visiting zoos was Lowestoft-based Zoo-Tastic. At the time of the changes to legislation, its owner Ian Gooch had welcomed it as a "fantastic idea", but the business website is no longer operational.
Other visiting exotic animal companies operating in Norfolk include Kimmy's Mobile Zoo, which holds a five-star Animal Activity Licence issued by Ipswich Borough Council, and Mini Monsters, which runs creepy crawly roadshows for schools, groups and parties.
Mini Monsters owner Ed Mackay said: "Some people don't approve of using animals at all but I do think the new regulations are a very good thing in terms of stopping any Tom, Dick or Harry with animals from using them for this type of business.
"I operate to the standards that the government has set and the best practice and think the changes have had a positive effect on animal welfare standards."