20th August 2023

**This action is now closed**

Heart of the Shires Shopping Centre is planning an event in which the public are invited to manhandle and harass animals. Both exotic and domestic animals are going to be subjected to a three-hour ordeal involving crowds, noise, and relentless forced interactions.

What’s wrong with mobile zoos?


Exotic animals, particularly reptiles, have very particular welfare needs which cannot be easily met in captivity, if at all. These animals are not domesticated like cats and dogs and can suffer stress, fear, and ill health as a result of regular handling and inadequate accommodation. Any animals used in displays can become frightened or stressed by being in strange, busy, and invariably noisy environments. Even simply being transported to the event is a known source of stress for animals, including domesticated and farm animals. Although the animals may be used to such environments as a result of being regularly subjected to them and this may make them conditioned to tolerate events without showing distress, it does not mean they are not internalising their suffering. Animals used in mobile zoos suffer a significantly heightened level of stress as a result of multiple elements of the experience; including being forced to endure cramped or inappropriate conditions, overwhelming contact with the public, distressing journeys, and completely unnatural environments. 

Public Health

Zoonotic diseases are those illnesses which can be passed from animals to people and vice versa. Around 61% of human illnesses are of potentially “zoonotic” origin, including Coronavirus. Research has shown that hand washing before and after handling animals does not offer adequate protection from zoonotic diseases as germs spread into the surrounding area and may prove difficult, if not impossible, to remove altogether. Animals may also bite, scratch or otherwise injure children during handling experiences and illness may be passed from children to animals too. 


Mobile zoo operators are often proud to state that they have the appropriate licences to work events. However, the current licensing conditions do not go far enough to protect both the public and the animals used in mobile zoos. Inspections are few and far between and regulation conditions are vague. We have found through our own recent investigations that a lot of businesses are failing to meet many of the licensing requirements. Arguably, mobile animal exhibits by their very nature can never satisfy the general and specific conditions of a licence, such as providing a suitable environment and housing.

Heart of the Shires Shopping Centre

Shopping Centres are not appropriate environments for most animals, who prefer to have freedom to move around, are frequently stressed and upset by crowds and loud noises, and would rather have the choice over whether or not to interact with those around them. Nonetheless, Heart of the Shires has a history of hosting mobile zoos and are planning to do so again this year. Enough is enough. We have emailed them, and submitted our concerns via their online contact form, and we have chased them up for a response, but still they have failed to commit to doing the right thing and cancelling this event. Now we need your help to get their attention and stop this abuse.

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