The Petting Zoo – Adorbs or Cruel?

I found myself at the Austin Rodeo one recent Friday evening.  For those of you not from Texas, think of the Rodeo like your local fair, except that it ends each night with an actual rodeo competition.  This competition includes cowboys who ride broncos and bulls for money.  You know, Luke Perry in the movie 8 Seconds?  That shenanigans.  Just like your local fair, the food is horrible and the rides are a regressive income tax.  But I digress, the point of this missive is petting zoos.

Prior to entering the competition, we milled around the fair grounds.  Eventually we ended up in a petting zoo, complete with Dixie cups of food for the animals.  Every imaginable kind of animal roamed within…even deer and donkey.  There was a sign not to feed the donkey, but every other beast was fair game.  Despite the fact that the animals’ domain was a metal pen with urine soaked shavings, the law of the jungle was clearly on display.  The more aggressive the animal, the more likely you would feed them…simply to get them off your back.  The biggest asshole of the lot?  The freaking deer.  Bambi with white spots.  Complete dick.  Go figure.

Petting Zoo Cruel

One of the friendlier petting zoo residents, propositioning the author. Notice the lurking hoof of the evil deer.

At one point I looked over, and my three year old was lying down, full stop hair and all on the ground, feeding chickens.  I threw up in my mouth a little.  I now understood why the exit gate was lined with hand sanitizer stations.  It was at that moment that I asked myself the critical question at hand: THE PETTING ZOO – ADORBS OR CRUEL?  And yes, I’ve been looking for a way to use “adorbs” in my writing for months.

The biggest asshole of the lot?  The freaking deer.  Bambi with white spots.  Complete dick.  Go figure.


On the one hand, it is a wonderful opportunity for your child to interact in a safe environment with animals that, unless they reside on a farm, aren’t part of their daily lives.  They can pet them and feed them, and in the process potentially gain a deeper appreciation for God’s creatures.  As a result of their turn in the pen, maybe they respect animals a little more than they might otherwise, and are thus more likely to treat them well in future interactions.

On the other hand, this is far from a natural scenario for the animals.  I have to imagine that as terrifying as it might be to some children (and some adults like me) to be in the petting zoo squared circle (that’s a professional wrestling reference), it’s even scarier for the animals.  Which is less predictable, a goat or a three year old?  It’s essentially a pick ’em.  A goat might bite you, but a three year old will likely pull ears or poke eyes (both animal and human ears and eyes).  Plus, domesticated farm animals shouldn’t have to fight for their meals with other breeds.  Imagine if humans and grizzly bears both dined at the same restaurants.  We’d be very hungry.  And how about the bum rap for the donkey?  Talk about the definition of insanity.  At least he can sleep well knowing that he has the biggest penis of the lot (if “he” is indeed a “he”).


So there you have it.  I’ll let you be the judge for you and your family moving forward.  My personal verdict is CRUEL, although petting zoos on actual farms (the animals’ natural setting) are probably fine with me.  That said, I don’t have the energy to start a movement to boycott unnatural petting zoos, so unless you do they’ll continue.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Keep me posted.