Small Turtles Not a Good Pet Choice: Risky and Illegal

Small Turtles Not a Good Pet Choice: Risky and IllegalDENGATE _Fern115_Ad

(Oakland County Health Dept. Press Release, Nov. 27, 2013)

According to the Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) small turtles with shells that measure less than four inches in length can cause human Salmonella infections, especially in young children.

The sale or distribution of small turtles (shells less than four inches long) was banned in the United States in 1975, however many shops continue to sell them as pets and small turtles continue to cause Salmonella infections. In 2013, there were eight national outbreaks linked to small turtles or their habitats. These outbreaks resulted in 473 Salmonella infections in people from 43 states and territories.

JudyPalmer01Residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid Salmonella infection:

~Don’t buy small turtles (shell length less than four inches) from pet stores, websites, street vendors, swap meets, or other sources.

~Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.

~Avoid letting reptiles roam indoors and keep them away from food preparation or eating areas.

~Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live.

~Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.  Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

~Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.
For more information and updates about ongoing Salmonella outbreaks associated with contact with small turtles, visit the CDC’s Small Turtle Outbreak website at


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