When I am in Holland, there isn’t much that I love more than going to the pet zoo in the park near my mother’s house. I think I enjoy it way more than the children do. It’s all so… organised! Pretty and pristine! I’m telling you, it’s cleaner and tidier than my son’s daycare. They have high animal care standards, high education standards and high behaviour standards for the children. Every animal has a name and a sign. There is lots of information about each type of animal. All animals have an indoors and outdoors enclosure. There are separate petting corners, into which no more than 2 children at a time are allowed. It’s like… Pet Zoo Paradise!!
In the picture above, my sons are stroking the bunnies in the petting corner. The chicken coops are in the back. In the wooden wall, you can see a small window, which leads directly to the nesting box. Kids can slide the window cover open to see the eggs or the hen on the nest. If I knew how to make something like this, I would do it instantly! Except that my hens would probably refuse to lay in that nestbox ever again. Not these chickens, of course! These posh Dutch chickens are perfectly co-operative.
There are beautiful Brahmas, Wyandottes, bantam Barnevelders and, interestingly, one lavender guinea fowl. I wonder how they keep that one from wandering off! It’s a far cry from my chaotic troop of feathery mutts.
The rabbits in the petting corner are soft and shiny. Not all bunnies welcome petting all the time, but there are two Flemish Giants that can’t be bothered to move anywhere and so are perfect for stroking. How I love giant rabbits!
There is fine grass hay, good dry food and clean water in giant water bottles. S. begged me to take some of these bottles home with me, but although I found them in a garden centre, I had to sit down and breathe deeply when I saw the price tag. There isn’t a piece of bread or a dirty veggie in sight. Obviously visitors are not allowed to feed the animals and nobody questions this. Boundaries are respected, kids are kept firmly in check. It is so different from Israel, where animals are raised on old white bread and leftovers, visitors try to feed the animals crisps and kids run around screaming. If only I could show them a video of the goings on in this exemplary pet zoo!!
In Israel, pet zoos often completely lose sight of what a pet zoo is supposed to be – a place where children can interact with pets. I have seen foxes, birds of prey, emus, snakes and monkeys in pet zoos. Often in small cages and questionable living conditions. In Dutch, the word for “pet zoo” is “kinderboerderij”, which literally means “children’s farm”. This is taken seriously. Pet zoos are places where kids can see farm animals up close. There might be cows, goats, sheep, horses and pigs, but no pet zoo would try to keep exotic animals – excepting guinea pigs and peafowl, maybe. This is what I understand a pet zoo to be, and that is what I will continue to strive for. Farm animals and pets in good living conditions. No more, no less.
Oh and I almost forgot the best part of this pet zoo! I can’t tell you about it. You just have to see this: