Skip to the content

Pre-Visit Health and Safety Information

Pre-Visit Health and Safety Information

We are proud of what we do here at All Creatures Great and Small Animal Sanctuary and we want all of our visitors to enjoy their experience. Visiting a Sanctuary such as ours, however, is not free of risk, especially relating to animals. Farm animals, in particular, even those that look clean and healthy, carry infections that can be harmful to people.

Please also see the Department of Health 'Avoiding Infection on Farm Visits - Advice for the Public' sheet; this leaflet is available on arrival at the sanctuary, or we can send you a copy in advance by arrangement.

To download our site map please click here.

The main things that we like to point out to visitors are:

Animals

Our animals are not used to regular visitors. They are especially not used to being touched by visitors so please do not be tempted to touch any of our animals unless supervised by a member of staff. Please, especially, do not put your fingers in cages or through fencing or touch any animal droppings.

Like any animal, our animals can also act in an unpredictable manner and caution should be exercised, therefore, at all times when in their presence.

If you have any concerns about any of our animals during your visit, please alert a member of staff immediately.

Hygiene

Hand washing facilities are located in the sanctuary; please ask a member of staff. Please remember that antibacterial wipes and alcohol hand gel are not 100% effective and there is no substitute for proper hand washing using warm water and soap.

Please, therefore, wash your hands regularly throughout your visit, especially if you come into contact with an animal. If in doubt, wash your hands!!!

There is also welly boot/push chair washing facilities available on the Sanctuary; please ask a member of staff. Please use this on your boots/push chair wheels before leaving the Sanctuary. In addition, please clean your clothes and shoes thoroughly when you get home.

Food and Drink

Food and drink may only be consumed in designated areas in the Sanctuary; again, please ask a member of staff.

Please do not feed the animals with your own food.

If you drop food, sweets or dummies, please dispose of them - do not reuse.

Important Information For Pregnant Visitors
Toxoplasmosis and Lambing - How to avoid unnecessary risk

Toxoplasmosis ca cause severe damage to an unborn child if a woman catches it for the first time when pregnant. It is important that female sheep farmers, and the wives of sheep farmers, know about this infection. Toxoplasmosis may be caught by accidentally swallowing the organism when handling a lambing ewe, the afterbirth or the newly born lamb. There is also the possibility of contracting toxoplasmosis from the contaminated hair or clothes of another person involved in lambing. During pregnancy sensible hygiene precautions can help to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis. Knowing how to avoid it will help reduce the anxiety that many women may feel once they know this infection exists and is a risk.

The following measures should be taken during pregnancy:

> Do not handle lambing ewes
> Do not bring lambs into the house
> Ensure partners attending lambing ewes observe full hygiene procedures
> Wash thoroughly (including hair), after handling a lambing ewe
> Scrub hands and keep fingernails short and clean
> Wash clothes separately, pregnant women should not handle clothes worn during lambing
> If it is not possible to clean up thoroughly in the night, then separate rooms are advised

How Toxoplasmosis Affects Sheep

In order to contract toxoplasmosis, it is necessary to eat the infected organism. In sheep this happens when they eat feed or bedding material contaminated with infected cats faeces. The cat is the definitive host for the parasite - it lives and reproduces in the gut of any member of the cat family and is then shed in the droppings. Although this usually only occurs for a short time in the cats life, the organism remains capable of passing on the infection for up to 18 months in the right conditions. As the infection is usually caught from hunting rodents and birds, feral and farm cats are likely to be infected more often and for longer, therefore domestic cats should never be fed raw meat.

Sheep who contract toxoplasmosis in pregnancy risk passing the infection on to their lambs. This may be a problem for the farmer as it can be a major cause of abortion in sheep. Infection in sheep in early pregnancy invariably results in fatal death, while infection later in pregnancy typically could cause a live lamb to be born along side a dead twin. Non pregnant sheep which become infected develop a life long immunity and are not at risk of aborting lambs.

The toxoplasma infection remains in the muscles in the form of tissue cysts in a sheep which has previously been infected, and the meat from these animals is then a risk to humans if eaten uncooked. A live vaccine, Toxovax, has recently been developed for sheep. Neither the vaccine nor a recently vaccinated sheep should be handled by pregnant women.

Questions Commonly Asked

What if I have to attend the ewes who are lambing?
Protective clothing and masks will help to prevent toxoplasmosis from being caught in this way, but there is still a potential risk to health of the unborn baby.

Can I catch this from my husband or child if he/she has the infection?
The infection is not passed between people, with the exception of a pregnant woman passing it on to her unborn baby. If one member of the family has contracted the infection, he/she  is not a risk to other members of the family.

What about rearing orphaned lambs?
For all the reasons given above, it is wise to leave this job to others. If the woman has no alternative, then scrupulous hygiene should be observed when handling the lamb.

What about handling sheep at other times (e.g. Shearing)
This should not present a risk to toxoplasmosis.

Are pregnant women visiting farms at risk?
There is a potential risk from handling a new lamb. However as the infection is caught from ingesting (eating) the organism, there is no risk of contracting toxoplasmosis from being in a field or pen with lambs. After handling animals it is always essential to wash hands before eating, especially when pregnant.

More Information

For more information on toxoplasmosis and how to avoid catching it from other sources, please see The Toxoplasmosis Trust's general fact sheet and that for pregnant women. The Trust also provides support to those who have a problem with this infection.

Chlamydia and Q fever are two other infections which also present a major health risk to pregnant women, and her unborn child. These infections may be contracted from sheep, and lambing ewes in particular. For further information on chlamydia and Q fever, contact your GP or local veterinary investigation centre.

General

Please be aware that this is a working Sanctuary and although vehicle and animal movements are kept to a minimum during opening hours, sometimes it is a necessity. With this in mind, please ensure that you supervise any children in your care during your visit at all times.

Please close gates and be alert. Do not go through gates or into areas where the public is prohibited. These areas are well marked allowing only authorised personnel to enter.

Always listen to advice and instructions given by staff. Some areas of the Sanctuary are rough under foot, please take care and ensure you have the correct footwear - welly boots are definitely advisable. We do not recommend open toed footwear or training shoes.

If you require First Aid during your visit, please see a member of staff immediately or make your way to the main Reception.

If you hear the fire alarm during your visit, please make your way calmly to the Fire Assembly Point in front of the Reception until further instructed by a member of staff.

Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the Sanctuary.

Children should be supervised at all times by a parent or guardian.

We do hope that you have an enjoyable visit! If there is any further information you would like to help you plan your visit, please do not hesitate to call the Sanctuary on (01633) 866 144.