Tiny pet turtles were all the rage in the 1970’s when it was found that the cute little reptiles were a source of illnesses resulting from salmonella contamination.
The FDA banned the sale of turtles less than four inches long in 1975, but they’re back!
Illnesses have been reported in 30 states since last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although selling them is against the law, a thriving black market with turtles raised on turtle farms is selling them at flea markets, parking lots, stores and on the internet. It is hard to shut down these kinds of operations.
According to the CDC, there have been eleven turtle-related salmonella outbreaks since 2006, sickening 535 people.
Turtles of all sizes shed salmonella in their droppings and the bacteria clings to their shells and skin. People who touch the turtle or wash the aquarium (sometimes in the kitchen sink--ew!) can spread the salmonella.
“In a space the size of a pinhead, you can have up to a million salmonella bacteria,” said Eduardo Groisman, a microbiology professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “That’s more than enough to make a person sick.” Source
Children are especially vulnerable because of their immature immune systems and the fact they are not careful about washing their hands. The FDA also found cases of children kissing their pet turtles or putting them in their mouths.
One parking lot seller in Maryland insists he isn’t selling turtles. He’s selling the cages and giving the turtles away free. He’ll get a chance to make his case to the judge or face $500 in fines and one year in jail. The story
Baby turtles...not such a good idea for a pet.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a pet that is long lived and low maintenance, an adult tortoise might fit the bill. A missing family pet allegedly survived for 30 years in a locked room eating termites.
People with pet reptiles say that they are gentle, affectionate and low maintenance. Depending on the species they can live up to 100 years. But they never learn to play fetch.