Last time we talked about the decision as to whether or not to add animals to your venue. I posted some questions to help you determine the feasibility for you personally. There is a ton of value, but again it may not work for everyone. From here on out, we’ll assume that you are either moving forward or have already added animals to your attraction. I’ll do my best to help you get started or refine what you already have.
Probably the first part of the process is determining the best location. Since animals appeal to a broad range of ages, it is usually best to keep them most accessible to your youngest guests. When people enter your venue they will be greeted by the events you have placed there by the entrance for a reason. At our venues, we usually kept the play areas and the interactive family events close to the main traffic areas so that those with only small children wouldn’t have to trek to the far reaches of the property. It’s also an advantage to keep certain things close to better handle the supervision of field trips during the week.
So once you’ve marked out the area, it’s time to lay out the plan. We would recommend limited contact with the animals for some obvious reasons, but let me expand on a few:
First is the safety of your guests. You can never be completely sure your animals won’t bite and hand to mouth usually results in a couple of those! They may be accidental from an excited, hungry animal, but it will hurt either way! Even though I hate to have to bring it up, this creates another level of liability for you as well.
Second is the safety of your animals. Small children don’t always understand how to be gentle and that can result in injuries to your animals.
Animal contact requires another level of supervision and it is no longer self-sustaining. The costs will come as it will require a dedicated staff member.
If you really want to provide contact with some of your animals, there is an alternative. Sometimes we have used a staff member to use one of the calm, people-friendly animals as an interactive opportunity. They will carry or lead the animal around on weekends and allow guests to pet or touch a proven and controlled animal. This is usually a winner for small children!
Of course in order to limit contact with the animals you will need to construct a double fence. This creates a neutral zone so that guests cannot reach the animals within their area.
The second thing to determine is the type of animals you would like to introduce. Sometimes this will be determined by things such as space, cost and availability. Probably the most common animals that venues will offer are rabbits and goats. Rabbits because they are cute and goats because they are entertaining! Both can be fairly inexpensive to keep. As we discussed before, construction will be required. Any animal will need shelter if this is their home for the season. And as we will discuss later, areas need to provide creative things for the animals to do. Areas also need to be designed neatly and professionally. It is always best to build anything that your guests will see, in a professional manner. This may require hiring someone skilled if you are not that person!
Third, will you buy these animals or lease them? Or maybe you will buy them and resell them. We had a weekly livestock auction near us that allowed us to secure some animals for the season and then find them a new home in late Fall. Some of this will depend on your operation. If you are a working farm, these types of animals may always be on your property, so you will use whatever you already own.
Remember that large animals, like horses or cows, are excellent teaching tools, but special care should be used around guests. Large animals are best used for demonstrations where guests cannot possibly be hurt if the animal reacts unpredictably. That usually requires a fence between you and your audience if the animal breaks away.
Ok, those are some first steps. Next time, I’ll give you some more specific ideas for using animals in your venue. We’ll begin to talk about how to feed, what to find and how to specifically build for different animals. Hope this information is helpful to you!