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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Off the plate but still a threat!

Published 05/07/10
By Susan Trout, Program Assistant

Last month the California Department of Fish and Game adopted a ruling to ban the importation of live turtles and frogs intended for food to prevent people from releasing non-native species into the state’s sensitive habitats.

Of course this decision is not without controversy and is opposed by those who profit from the sale of these animals.

However, we don’t think the ban goes far enough.

While Born Free USA testified in support of the ban, in our detailed comments to the commission we pointed out that reptiles sold in the pet trade also pose the same risks to the environment as those sold live for food.

Frequently, possessors of these reptiles encounter problems trying to maintain them and irresponsibly set them free. The detrimental effect to existing species is alarming. It is no secret that Florida is now overrun with dangerous predator snakes like boa constrictors and pythons.

In addition, small reptiles like lizards and turtles purchased as pets for children pose a serious health risk because they commonly carry Salmonella.

The sale of turtles under four inches is prohibited by federal law due to the Salmonella risk to young children . Despite this, turtles less than 4 inches are frequently sold at pet shops, flea markets and swap meets in California and are marketed directly to parents of small children by selling the turtles along with toy-like plastic containers.

Of course, while of no concern to the Commission, the cruelty endured by reptiles in the pet trade is immense.

Late last year, an unprecedented seizure of thousands of imported animals from a Texas warehouse revealed unconscionable mistreatment and neglect of animals, many of them reptiles, captured for the pet trade.

Thankfully, the owners of the company were cited and face federal charges of animal cruelty and neglect. According to recent reports, however, one of the owners is on the run.

Our government needs to enact more laws banning trade of exotic mammals and reptiles for any purpose. Of course it is big business and we are a free-market country, but at some point we as a society need to address the bigger picture—what effect is this massive animal trade having on native species in their own countries of origin and what dangers do they pose to our own flora and fauna?

What can you do? A lot! As one of our strong supporters, you can let your congressional officials know of your concern and ask them to either sponsor, or support legislation that will change existing laws concerning exotic animals.

In addition, as a consumer you can truly effect positive change by patronizing pet stores that do not sell live animals. We encourage you to visit our new Pet Supply Locator to find a pet store that sells only pet foods and other products but no live animals.

As long as there is a demand for these animals, stores will continue to sell them and the never-ending tragic pet trade will continue.

Til next time...

Susan

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