A petting zoo calls for skill and knowledge to handle the animals, along with an undying love for animals. This business has a lot of potential but also requires some time to grow. The popularity of your business entirely depends upon how you go about fulfilling all the requirements of a successful business. I can, however, assure you that it is a very fulfilling experience to see small children having their first interaction with animals.
A beforehand planning can make things easier for you. Having a pet zoo involves a lot of decision-making and dedication. Taking care of a few essential things in this business would prove to be quite beneficial for you. Some of the key issues that are involved in this business are:
1. Area Requirements
The most important part of starting your zoo is the facility for housing the animals. You need to have at least a 10 acre area to start with. You should pay attention to the types of animals you are going to keep. If you want to run a business from your home, tax, permits, licenses and other related requirements should be taken care of. The space allotted for the animals should be comfortable for them. It is advisable to keep your zoo within city limits, so that it is easier for parents to bring their children. There should be adequate area for keeping the fodder for the animals and you must also provide for staff quarters.
2. Legal Formalities
Choose a name for your business and register it at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), that is, at the federal level and the Department of Revenue, Licensing or Professional Regulation at the state level. You will need a liability insurance for operating this business, which will cover your assets in case an injury occurs at your petting zoo. A Class C Exhibitor's License issued from the Department of Agriculture is required for operating a zoo and transportation of animals, for educational purposes. A permit from the city's local authorities for displaying animals is also needed.
3. Selection and Housing of Animals
The next important requirement is animals that would form a part of your program. Keep in mind that the space you select is right for the type of animals you have. It is advisable to start with a few animals initially and then increase the number as your business grows. Choose animals that are easy to care for and are not found as pets at homes. Calculate the cost of caring for the animals. It may be necessary sometimes for them to share cages or the outdoor space. Therefore, it is important to choose animals that will interact and live mutually without any issue. You should try and choose animals that are friendly to humans and won't mind being showcased.
The zoo should be structured before the arrival of the animals. Make sure you have properly demarcated the areas and cages where every individual animal or a group of animals are to be housed. Vaccinate all your animals from potential diseases that can strike all species. If you have aquatic animals, provide them with clean water and get their pool or aquarium cleaned once in a while. Proper fencing is required so that the animals do not run away from the premises.
4. Display Area
The display area is fascinating to the children and has to be dealt with great care. Few things that will help in making it fabulous for the kids are:
- Choose an area where you can best display your animals.
- It should be decorated with a theme that will be fun for the kids. This area has to be safe for the kids and the pet animals.
- Display sign boards with proper instructions and point out from the start the guidelines required while petting an animal. Mention clearly that harassment of the animals would not be tolerated.
- Do not play loud music at the display area as the animals would not be comfortable in such surroundings.
5. Extra-curricular Activities
You should be able to give the children an impressive experience. There can be various activities which, if performed, can bring back the visitors time and again and would add excitement to the place. Some of the activities would be
- Giving pony rides to the little children.
- Milking the cows and buffaloes under the guidance of an experienced person.
- Building scarecrows
- A quiz on animal facts
6. Marketing your Petting Zoo
This is an important feature, and requires a lot of thinking. You need to market your business in a way that leaves a positive impression on people's mind. Some of them are:
- Place ads in the local newspapers and give flyers to the local grocery stores and supermarkets for advertising your business. Mention the address, contact number, animals on display, entry fee, etc., in the advertisements.
- Provide for discounts and lucky draws for advertising your pet zoo.
- Contact the local schools and nurseries and let them know about your petting zoo.
- Build a website and feature your zoo business on the Internet.
7. Mobile Petting Zoo
A mobile zoo can be one of the most effective ideas and it will also boost up your earnings. You will need a trailer to hold the cages and pens. A large truck will be needed to carry these trailers and transport your animals to different locations like birthday parties, fairs, carnivals and schools. There are facilities which provide these traveling equipment on lease. Once your mobile zoo business increases, it would be more profitable to invest and buy your own trailers and trucks. You will also need equipment like fences that can easily be erected and taken down.
8. A Medical Team
Sick animals need to be tended to and taken care of. Therefore, it is most necessary to keep a medical team in the vicinity of the zoo. Medical equipment should be available at all times. This in turn would prevent the loss of animals. An experienced veterinarian, along with other experienced staff, is very important for the well-being and health of the animals.
9. Hiring Staff
Proper number of staff is essential for completing the day-to-day chores and for maintaining the standard and sanitation of your zoo.
- The cages, pens and sheds need to be cleaned regularly and animals need to be fed and provided with clean water everyday.
- A guard has to be present around each cage or animal display area at all times to keep a watch on the animals and the visitors.
- You also need people to groom the animals.
- There should also be people for book-keeping and for maintaining the records.
- Presence of animal trainers and handlers is a must.
- Security officials are necessary for maintaining the discipline of the zoo.
10. Amenities for Visitors
Build a toilet for the visitors. This will keep visitors from using bathrooms in your house. Also provide for clean drinking water for the visitors. You should provide an area where they can wash their hands and place some picnic tables or make a seating arrangement for the visitors. Be firm with the rules to be followed in your display area and while petting animals. Keep the shed area of the animals off-limits from visitors. The safety of your animals and the children visiting is your responsibility.
11. Timings and Fees
Schedule the display timings of your petting zoo. There will be some time needed before and after the display of animals for feeding the animals and grooming them. You need to adjust the timings in accordance with that. You and your animals should be available at the stipulated time. Decide on the ticket price or entry fee you will be charging. Do not expect a high return initially and give them the best deal.
You need to be understanding and capable of easily building rapport with the children. You will be the person preparing the guidelines and should also see to it that your guidelines are met by everybody. You should be able to communicate well with the adults in order to make them and the children understand the requirements while petting and riding an animal. You must be updated with the facts of the animals and should be able to answer the questions asked by your visitors. Try and provide them with some interesting facts about the animals. This business is quite profitable and a person who has interest and love for animals can give it a thought, a real thought!