Alpacas, other Wildlife Available in Petting Zoos

Gregory Vellner
Alpacas like me can be met in petting zoos.Photo byRaspopova MarinaonUnsplash

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Game Commission has altered regulations and now allows additional types of captive wildlife animals like alpacas to have contact with people at roadside and petting zoos – a change some say is hazardous and inhumane to animals and people.

For its part, the Game Commission says the rule changes do not expose the public to “unnecessary danger or harm.” Previously, few animal species considered wildlife could be shown in such a manner.

By a 6-3 vote, the Game Commission recently amended regulations so menageries can allow certain animals to “have contact with people.”

A menagerie is defined as “any place where one or more wild birds or wild animals, or one or more birds or animals which have similar characteristics and appearance to birds or animals wild by nature, are kept in captivity for the evident purpose of exhibition with or without change,” according to the Game Commission.

More -- but not all -- types of captive wildlife can now have public contact, said Robert D’Angelo, senior associate editor, state Game News.

“Not all captive animals classified as wildlife may have human contact,” he said. “Members of the families Ursidae, Felidae, Canidae and non-human primates may not be removed from confinement and directly exposed to the public.”

Ursidae are bear species, Felidae the cat species and Canidae the dog species like coyotes, wolves and foxes.

“This clearly defines the way for species such as alpacas, sheep, goats, etc., to be part of petting zoos, and clearly prohibits the other species from direct exposure to the public,” said D’Angelo.

The move to alter regulations came after the operator of a menagerie approached the Game Commission and requested certain restrictions “be relaxed,” according to Travis Lau, Communications Director, state Game Commission.

‘Upon review,” he said, “the Game Commission determined changes could be made to the regulations without exposing the public to unnecessary danger or harm”

Soon after the Game Commission action, at least one animal-rights leader denounced the regulatory changes and said they’d increase danger for animals and people.

“The risks include transmission of zoonotic diseases, exposure to bites, scratches and rabies,” wrote a Mechanicsburg, Pa. group in a letter to the editor in PennLive publication. ‘There are many examples of captive exotic animals injuring or killing humans. This unnecessary amendment will not only expose citizens to potential injuries but it will relegate countless members of animals to a lifetime of suffering and forced human interaction.”

(Is this action inhumane to animals? ‘Follow’ here and stay on top of it.)

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA

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