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May 30, 2007

TURTLES

Filed under: Reptiles — admin @ 10:09 am

 Turtles?  Yes Turtles!  First a bit of history…

     When I was young, I would spend hours choosing the prettiest turtle at Woolworths.  They all had wonderful designs painted on their shells and I could not understand why they all died so soon.   Of course the reason was the shell could not grow.

     When painting was stopped around 1950, I could still buy the little 2″ turtles.   They lived longer even though the standard diet was only ant eggs.

     In 1975, the Maryland State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Kenneth Crawford noticed that young children were being treated for salmonella that he associated with these little turtles.  He instituted a ban on all turtles in Maryland.  Subsequently, the Centers for Disease Control regulated that only turtles 4″ or larger could be sold legally in the U.S. (Too large to fit in a childs mouth!)

     The Maryland Association of Pet Industries (MAPI) negotiated with the State Health Department for 6 years, meeting monthly and finally in 1993 they agreed to permit sales of turtles over 4″ in Maryland if we posted a sign warning about salmonella.

What is the situation today?

     Turtles are sold in some Maryland stores.   They are mostly large red eared sliders or the adult breeding population of turtles imported from Russia, Vietnam, and other countries.  These large turtles require spacious enclosures (one customer has a built in pond in his family room), expensive lighting, and routine cleaning.   And because of the Maryland Regulations, it’s illegal to breed them.  (Turtle condoms anyone?)

     So why do we carry turtle food and supplies for small turtles?  Because our customers buy them in Chinatown in New York and from street vendors.  They are usually purchasing them on impulse, with no concern for long term survival, but as a novelty “toy” for a child.  We work hard to educate them, encourage them to at least purchase a book and basic supplies but we are not always sucessful.  How much better it would be if we could sell these baby turtles to someone after we’ve had a chance to explain their care, their ultimate size, how to house them and keep them clean (ask us about our customers clever trick).

     Currently the two senators from Louisiana (Landrieu and Vitter) have introduced legislation to require the FDA to permit the sale of baby turtles.   The turtle famers have worked hard to reduce the salmonella incidence and once again make these interesting little pets available.  We support their efforts.