By John Di Leonardo
Last week, I urged readers to remember that animals are not merchandise, and now a new CDC investigation provides us with yet another reason to take this seriously. At least 26 people across 11 states have recently been infected in a salmonella outbreak linked to small turtles. Nine of the 26 patients were hospitalized.
According to the CDC:
Pet turtles of any size can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies, tank water, and anything in the area where they live and roam … You can get sick from touching a turtle or anything in its environment and then touching your mouth or food with unwashed hands and swallowing Salmonella germs.
The Hill notes that “Salmonella is a bacteria that causes more than 1.3 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the U.S. every year. Raw, uncooked food products is its most common source.”
Symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, according to the CDC, which said symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days. Children under the age of 5, adults 65 and older, as well as people with weak immune systems are particularly at risk of death or serious illness.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to protect the public by banning the sale of baby turtles whose shell lengths are smaller than 4 inches, however, Humane Long Island’s same Coney Island investigation that resulted in the confiscation of a wallaby, a caiman, and two pythons last month also found tiny turtles sold en masse by some of the very same perpetrators.
Not only is this dangerous for the turtles, children, and the elderly, but the release of these non-native slider turtles into our local ecosystems as a result of the pet trade has caused a rapid decline of native turtle species, such as the Eastern Box Turtle, which is now classified a Species of Species Concern – almost endangered – in New York State.
For this week’s Anuvrat, I urge you to remember that Mahavira taught that bad karma is caused by harming living beings and that harming an animal is akin to harming oneself. Purchasing wild animals for pets and even consuming the flesh or products of animals can result in serious infections, such as salmonella and E. coli. However, these infections can easily be avoided by vowing to steer clear of treating animals as products and leaving them unmolested. If you ever see turtles with shell lengths under 4 inches being sold in the United States, please take a photo and contact me at [email protected].
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].