At the request of the public health authorities, 31 public amenity premises in England and Wales containing animals of various species were investigated for the presence of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) O157 between 1997 and 2007, because of putative associations with human cases. VTEC O157 was confirmed in one or more species on 19 (61.3 per cent) of the premises. There were significant associations between the presence of VTEC O157 and the number of species sampled, the size of the enterprise, the presence of young cattle and the presence of adult pigs. E coli O157 was isolated from 305 (17.8 per cent) of 1715 samples taken from all the premises, and verocytotoxin genes were detected by PCR in 184 (98.4 per cent) of 187 representative isolates. On positive premises, the highest mean proportion of positive samples (29.0 per cent) was in cattle, followed by sheep (24.4 per cent), donkeys (14.6 per cent), pigs (14.3 per cent), horses (12.3 per cent) and goats (9.9 per cent). A high proportion of positive samples was obtained from camelid species sampled on three of the premises. The main phage types (PT) were 2 and 21/28, which were those most commonly isolated from human cases during the same period. A single PT was detected on 14 of the 19 positive premises, with up to six different species having the same PT.