This is a controversial question. Most literature that you read will tell you that petting a manatee is against the law. In a State Park it is against the law to even be in the same body of water with a manatee. Crystal River and Homosassa Rivers are the only places in the United States where you can swim with the manatees. Although, Crystal River is not a petting zoo. There must be a balance between our love and desire to actually touch and have a close encounter with a manatee, and respect for the space of the animal. This is a difficult and often argued balance. It is best managed by simply making sure that YOU do not approach a manatee. We float, and observe. Although sometimes manatees are very curious and playful, and will come up to you, even rub up against you. Petting is still discouraged because it can cause everyone to want to pet the animal at the same time, so common sense must be applied on a case by case basis, but you will not be arrested if the manatee initiates the activity, and you do not in any way harass the manatee as detailed in the video, and literature that you are required to read and sign before each tour. Never pursue, let them come to you.