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For Immediate Release: 05/19/10

Hopping Mad!

Born Free USA asserts live markets and other sales are: Bad for Frogs; Bad for Turtles; Bad for Native Species; Bad for the Environment... are they Bad for You?

In a wise but limited precautionary move, last month the California Department of Fish and Game adopted a ruling to cease issuing permits for the importation of live turtles and frogs in an effort to help protect the state’s sensitive habitats from invasive species and the diseases they may carry.

However, this measure only addressed non-native turtles and frogs intended for human consumption, leaving the door wide open to the same species to be sold as “pets” or “novelties,” which also pose a threat to California ecosystems and human health. Disturbingly, the Commission is poised to reconsider even the limited import policy during a special teleconference meeting on May 20th which could result in a leap backwards for the State.

Prior to the Commission’s importation policy decision, Born Free USA urged the commission to apply the prohibition more broadly by adding non-native turtles and frogs to the prohibited species list [Section 671 of Title 14].

“At the very least adding high risk, non-native turtle and frog species to the State’s prohibited list would extend the sales ban to retail stores, pet shops, flea markets, and swap meets, thereby providing a more comprehensive, more effective and fairer approach,” said Monica Engebretson, Senior Program Associate of Born Free USA.

Species in retail venues that are of particular concern to Born Free USA include red eared slider turtles and African dwarf frogs. In addition to posing potential threat to native ecosystems these species are frequently sold in California as pets for small children and pose a significant risk to human health via transmission of Salmonella.

In December of 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a multistate outbreak of Salmonella associated with African dwarf frogs. More than three-quarters of those affected by symptoms ranging from diarrhea to fever and vomiting were younger than 10 years old, and the median age was 4 years.

“The prevalence of this species in the pet trade as a novelty item, sold in “Frog O-spheres” by stores like Brookstone, increases the likelihood that the animals will be released into the wild when the animals become sick or when their novelty wears off,” adds Engebretson.

Born Free USA also points out the significant welfare challenges faced by these species. For example, the public are often encouraged to make an ‘impulse purchase’ by retailers who describe frogs as easy to care for and low maintenance, implying that these creatures need minimal attention. The result, all too often, is suffering and death as many comments posted on Brookstone’s own website (www.brookstone.com) strongly indicate.

Born Free USA has documented the sale of baby red-eared slider turtles less than four inches in length sold in pet shops and at swap meets across California. The sale of turtles measuring less than 4 inches is prohibited by federal law due to the Salmonella risk to young children. Despite this, young turtles are frequently marketed directly to parents of small children by being sold along with toy-like plastic containers.

Born Free USA is urging members of the public to alert their elected representatives to the current situation and, far from accepting a weakening of the live frog and turtle sale regulation, seek a broadening of the provision to include all sales of at risk species.

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal welfare and conservation organization and nationally recognized leader on exotic animal regulation. More information can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org

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For further details contact:
Monica Engebretson
Senior Program Associate, Born Free USA
(916) 447 3085 x 210

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