Arts and Entertainment

Bunnies in boats: Animals, children can chill together at Block Party petting zoo

A Block Party-goer at last year’s Animal Encounters petting zoo cradles a young rabbit; The Encounters team uses special ‘bunny boat’ holders to make sure the animals feel safe. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
A Block Party-goer at last year’s Animal Encounters petting zoo cradles a young rabbit; The Encounters team uses special ‘bunny boat’ holders to make sure the animals feel safe.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Rabbits may just be magical. It sure seemed that way during last year’s Block Party, when John and Kim Connolly saw excited youngsters simply settle down and bond with baby bunnies—or cavies, guinea pigs, wallabies or chinchillas—at their Animal Encounters booth.

“For some kids, just holding a rabbit for an hour is a super-positive experience,” says John Connolly, and that’s what he and his wife set out to create when they launched their business just over a year ago.

Animal Encounters, recently relocated to the Fall City area, started with the idea of creating positive experiences for every visitor, as well as the animals.

“Our philosophy is a little different from other folks’” Connolly said.

So, there’s no feeding at Animal Encounters, which can cause animals to rush and crowd new visitors, and there are few large animals, which can be frightening to some.

There are, however, lots of small, furry animals, and spots for children—and adults—to sit down and get to know them.

“People really enjoy interacting with cuddly animals that like to be held,” Connolly said, baby bunnies especially.

The couple’s self-designed “bunny boats,” fleece sacks that the animals nestle in as guests hold them, improve the experience.

“The animals feel so much more secure when they’re in something that replicates their nest,” Connolly said, “and the kids don’t have to worry about getting bitten or peed on…”

It’s such a good experience that Connolly says they’ll often see children, jokingly referred to as “petting zoo groupies” spend most of the day at the booth.

“Sometimes they’ll hold the same animal for hours. … they bond with them in a really unusual and positive sort of way.”

Look for Animal Encounters in the children’s section of the Block Party, or find them online at www.animalencounters.org.

 

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