Are you thinking of getting a pet turtle? Well, think again. Many people assume that turtles are safe and easy pets, but they are quite difficult to take care of and, in some cases, illegal. 

Here’s what you should know about turtles and why you should discourage friends and family members from welcoming this green reptile into their homes. 

1. They Can Carry Diseases

Source: TomoNews US/Youtube

The most important thing to know about turtles is that they often carry salmonella. The bacteria can be found on the skin or outer surface of their shell and is not harmful to the turtle. Other reptiles and amphibians like frogs can also carry salmonella. 

In February 2021, a salmonella outbreak caused by tiny turtles made 22 people sick and caused one death. This is one of several salmonella outbreaks started by turtles. 

Because the disease is on their skin, simply letting a turtle walk on a countertop or touching one before eating can make you sick. The FDA strongly recommends against getting small turtles and other amphibians or reptiles. They even ask pet owners to remove the pet from the home before a small infant or child enters it. 

2. It’s Illegal to Sell Small Turtles

It is illegal to sell small turtles in the United States because of the dangers of salmonella poisoning. Unfortunately, this has not stopped the tiny creatures from being sold. Do you want to contribute to selling illegal animals and risk getting people sick from them? It’s simply not worth it. 

The most common places to buy turtles smaller than 4 inches are festivals, outside sporting events, and other loosely regulated places. There are plenty of pet options that are legal, less dangerous, and easier to track down. 

Besides, buying pets contributes to mass breeding and treating animals as commodities, which we don’t support. 

3. They’re Bred in Poor Conditions or Taken From the Wild 

Source: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)/Youtube

Turtles are either bred in crowded breeding mills or taken from the wild. Both of these are inhumane and speak volumes about how difficult it is to find a pet turtle ethically. A PETA investigation found a pet mill specializing in amphibians and reptiles, leaving countless animals to suffer and die. They supplied pets to pet stores around the country, including PetSmart. 

If an animal is a commodity, profit will be prioritized. This means the animal’s welfare will be compromised, increasing the risk of injury, illness, suffering, and death. 

4. It’s Difficult to Give Them Good Homes

Like rabbits, turtles are surprisingly high maintenance. They need a lot of space and specialized care with the right lighting, control temperature, and a water filtration system. Turtles sold in plastic boxes or shipped in makeshift containers perpetuate the myth that these creatures are easy to take care of. 

When turtles are taken care of properly, they can live for decades. This may be an inconvenience for some people who unknowingly purchase a turtle, expecting them to live for a few months. 

To make matters even more difficult, they cannot be let outside. It is usually illegal to let a turtle out into the wild because of their diseases and how invasive they are. The red-ear slider turtles are originally native to the United States, and they’re currently one of the 100 most invasive species in the world. This means that if you don’t end up liking being a turtle owner, finding a way to get rid of them can be difficult. 

5. What If You Already Have One? 

If you or someone you know already has a turtle, there are a few things to do to ensure they are treated humanely, and everyone stays safe. 

To start, do the proper research for the specific turtle species and give them the correct living environment. This may be expensive, so we recommend looking for the tank elements secondhand if you can’t afford brand new ones. 

Secondly, treat the turtle as if they already have salmonella. This means diligently sanitizing spaces, washing your hands after touching them, and keeping them away from children and the elderly. 

Finally, if the turtle isn’t living in the environment they should, and their owner isn’t able to provide that for them, find a person who can adopt the turtle and give them the life they deserve. 

Turtles, like all other animals, were not designed to entertain humans. While we may want to think that keeping an animal as a pet in our warm and happy homes is inherently helpful, that’s not always the case. Turtles are perfectly happy living in the wild and should not be bred in captivity or sold in cheaply fabricated containers.

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