Safety first at the county fair

County fairs are an American tradition.

The Dickinson County Fair, set for Aug. 28-Sept. 2 this year, traditionally is the most popular county fair in the Upper Peninsula.

This Labor Day tradition is a jewel to treasure.

Half the fun – no – more than half the fun of any fair is taking in the animal exhibits. The amount of work these exhibitors invest in their animals is amazing.

There are potential dangers, however.

Exhibits such as petting zoos and fairs allow children of all ages to have the thrilling experience of coming face to face with animals.

This interaction allows people to learn more about animals and helps to build an important human-animal bond.

Unfortunately, many people become sick every year because of a visit to an animal exhibit, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

It is important to remember that animals sometimes carry germs that are harmful to humans.

When people forget to wash their hands after petting an animal or bring food into an area where animals are being housed, they are at risk for becoming ill, CDC officials said.

Below, the CDC lists some tips to help area residents prevent illness when visiting animal exhibits.

If you are visiting an animal exhibit:

– Hand-washing stations: Find out where hand-washing stations are located. Always wash your hands after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure, especially before eating and drinking. Running water and soap are best. Use hand gels if running water and soap are not available.

– Food and drinks: Keep food and drinks out of animal areas. Do not share your food with animals. Do not eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) dairy products.

– Children: Children younger than 5 years old need supervision. Never allow children to put their hands or objects (For example: pacifiers) in their mouth while interacting with animals. Hand washing should be supervised.

Protect children by keeping them out of animal facilities. Farm animals should be treated with caution and respect. They can cause accidents just because of their size. They can knock down, step on, kick or trample children without provocation. Even good-tempered animals can become dangerous.

Children should have no contact with some farm animals.

Herd sires, cows and sows with new offspring are some examples. Some male animals are very aggressive and could be dangerous. Animal mothers are very protective of their offspring and will attack if threatened. Sick animals are also dangerous.

Elderly persons: Elderly persons or others who might have a difficult time fighting off infections should use special precautions.

Cattle and horses have panoramic vision, which means they can see everything except something that is directly behind them, giving them a viewing range of 270 degrees while humans have a range of about 180 degrees. Sudden movements behind cattle will “spook” them because they can see a quick movement but cannot distinguish how close the perceived “threat” is nor can they determine the seriousness of the movement. In response to sudden movements, fear may develop in the animal’s mind sufficient to trigger a “flight” or “fight” response.

People who work with animals recognize the ability of animals to communicate despite an inability to speak. Most species have and display characteristic signs of fear, aggression, and contentment. Astute handlers are sensitive to warnings evidenced by:

– Raised or pinned ears.

– Raised tail.

– Raised back hair.

– Barred teeth.

– Pawing the ground.

– Snorting.

Specific handling methods, like warning signs, vary with species. However, some general handling rules for all animals include the following:

– Most animals respond favorably to routines having calm, deliberate responses.

– Avoid loud noises and quick movements.

– Move slowly and deliberately around livestock.

– Respect rather than fear livestock. Breeding stock are highly protective and often irritable. Disposition deteriorates with age and parturition. Old breeding stock can be cantankerous, deceptive, unpredictable, and large enough to be dangerous.

– Male animals should be considered potentially dangerous at all times. Proper equipment and facilities are necessary to assure safety. Extreme caution should be practiced when handling male animals.

– The size, mass, strength, and speed of both individual animals and herds of animals should never be taken lightly. Animals will defend their territory and should be worked around keeping in mind that there is always the potential for harm.

– Always provide an escape route (always leave yourself a way out), especially when working in close quarters, with sick or injured animals, and/or under adverse conditions (i.e., severe storms etc.).

– Exercise extra care around strange animals and enforce extreme care if strangers must be around your animals.