Thursday, February 9, 2023

Salmonella cases spur ban on reptile, amphibian sales

September 10, 2001

Reptiles may never be man’s best friend.

The Humane Society of the United States released a report Thursday that called for the sales of reptiles and amphibians to be banned, citing cases of reptile owners who have contracted salmonella.

Salmonella can be carried by reptiles without the animals showing the symptoms. The disease can be found in their feces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 93,000 cases of salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles or amphibians. The report also said thousands of these cases require hospitalization and at least 20 resulted in death.

But owners of reptiles feel the report is grossly incorrect.

Richard Preuss, part-owner of Preuss Animal House, 219 Haslett Road in Haslett, said the report is an assault on the reptile owners.

“I can’t speak for the entire animal retail community, but suggesting there should be a ban on reptiles is ridiculous,” he said.

Preuss said there are signs throughout his store informing people about the dangers of contracting salmonella.

“Many of the salmonella cases you are going to contract would be the same if you didn’t clean the counter top after cleaning chicken,” he said.

While reptile owners continue to protest, the Humane Society of the United States said the report is only suggesting to the public that reptiles do not make good pets.

But Teresa Telecky, director of the wild-life trade program of the Humane Society of the United States, said the organization is petitioning the Food and Drug Association to ban the sales of reptiles as pets.

“In the early 1970s, they banned the sales of turtles under four inches because of salmonella,” she said.

Telecky advised that young children, pregnant women and people with a low immune system should stay away from reptiles.

While owning reptiles as a pet is relatively new when compared to dogs or cats, the number of people who own a reptile has grown 44 percent in the last two years, Telecky said. About 4 million homes now own one.

Robert Basak, whose house once had a pet lizard, said he doesn’t think the government has the right to pass legislation on the type of pet you can own.

“It was pretty well behaved, and it was tame,” the psychology senior said. “I would let people own a tiger if it was well trained.”

Lansing Community College student Jonathan Anderson said he owns about 11 different species of reptiles.

“It isn’t like a cat or a dog, where you have to take it out for a walk,” the computer animation sophomore said. “For the most part, they are very low maintenance.”

Anderson said making sure to wash after handling a pet is an issue for every animal - not just reptiles.

“There are over 20 types of salmonella,” he said. “The most likely source you’re going to find is from uncooked chicken.”

James Sikarskie, zoo wildlife veterinarian for the College of Veterinarian Medicine, said owners of reptiles usually know of the possibility of contracting salmonella.

“You can get salmonella just about from every bird, reptile or mammal,” he said.

Sikarskie said not allowing a reptile to have free roam of your house and making certain to wash after handling it are the best ways to avoid getting salmonella.

“If you go out and scoop up dog poop, you don’t go in and eat a sandwich,” he said.


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