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Is Your Local Pumpkin Patch or Fall Festival Animal-Friendly?

Autumn is here! And that usually means visits to your local pumpkin patch or fall festival. However, these places often offer activities that aren’t humane, like pony rides or petting zoos. Sometimes, fish are even given away as prizes. Be sure to explain to your little one why these events aren’t kind to animals, and try to avoid going to events and venues that offer such cruel activities. If you accidentally end up going somewhere that has a petting zoo, you can use the opportunity to talk to your kid about why your family chooses not to participate.

What’s Wrong With Petting Zoos?

Animals in petting zoos live in a constant state of stress and are forced to be around strange noises and activity as unfamiliar people try to touch them. These animals, including goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and chickens, feel fear and pain and don’t want to be subjected to the chaos of these events. Petting zoos also create a public health risk. Humans are in danger of catching and spreading infectious diseases and pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, cryptosporidium, giardia, and H1N1 (swine flu) through direct or even indirect contact with animals. Children are especially vulnerable, because they’re less likely to practice proper hygiene.

Never Encourage Pony Rides

Pony rides and live carousels can be found at many different places—like fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, cider mills, circuses, and even birthday parties. Regardless of the location, the ponies are tethered to turnstiles or in tents and forced to walk in endless circles. They must often work long hours in extreme weather conditions, without any water. Ill-fitting or carelessly rigged tackle can cause ponies to suffer from hoof ailments, saddle sores, or mouth and tooth problems. Since replacing worn-out or sick animals can be cheaper than providing proper veterinary care, operators may work ponies until they drop.

Fish Aren’t Festival Prizes

You may even notice live animals being given away as prizes at a fall festival! Fish feel fear, pain, and stress—just like us. They’re not disposable toys or trinkets. Yet instead of treating them like the sentient beings they are, festival organizers sometimes use them as prizes for ping pong toss, ring toss, and other games. They’re often stored in tiny bags or coolers without the proper water temperature or filtration—resulting in suffering and death. If fish survive long enough to be handed over as a “prize,” they’re often dumped in trash cans, thrown off rides, shaken inside a bag, or taken home and flushed down the toilet. Even people with good intentions of caring for the fish they win can unwittingly cause them to suffer greatly.

Choose Compassion

Animals deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and using them for entertainment is wrong. Speak up for animals who are harmed and exploited at festivals, carnivals, and fairs. If you see a petting zoo, a pony ride, or fish being given away at a festival or pumpkin patch, please voice your objections to the sponsors of the event and to the management of the venue. Ask them to leave these cruel activities out of the festivities.


It’s important to remember that animals aren’t ours to use for entertainment. We should choose animal-friendly forms of fun all year long. Try taking your kids to a corn maze or a pick-your-own pumpkin patch! And use these fun animal rights stencils when carving your pumpkins:

For Kids