The Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
United States of America

Reptiles should not be sold as pets. Keeping these animals exposes owners to salmonella infections and often results in the suffering and death of the reptile.

More and more people are buying reptiles as pets, causing both an increase in salmonella poisoning cases as well as a growing market for these wild animals, who frequently suffer and die due to incorrect handling and improper care.

Due to contact, both direct and indirect, with pet reptiles, 93,000 people in the United States are infected with salmonella each year, and thousands are hospitalized. Unfortunately children, ages 5 years and under, make up the majority of cases because of their developing immune systems. In fact, reptile-associated salmonellosis can be fatal. It is responsible for the death of 20 people each year and has caused several infant deaths in recent years.

Reptiles, such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, are non-domesticated animals, unlike other companion animals such as dogs and cats, requiring very special care. Frequently these animals are purchased and mistreated due to the new owner's unfamiliarity with a reptile's unique food and care requirements.

Reptiles sold as pets are both caught in the wild and raised in captive environments. While concerns with human health and animal welfare remain whether the animal is wild-caught or captive-bred, there is additional stress and suffering for the wild-caught animals who have to endure capture and transportation from their natural environments. Prohibiting the sale of reptiles as pets will help reduce occurrences of reptile-associated salmonellosis and allow the animals to live out their natural life-spans without the pain or distress brought about by the reptile trade.

History: Between 1970 and 1975 hatchling red-eared slider turtles were a popular pet for children in the US. During this time, 250,000 cases of reptile-associated salmonellosis in children and infants were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In response to this, in 1975 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enacted a ban on the sale of turtles with a shell of less than four inches in length. This led to a 77% decrease in the number of annual cases of reptile-associated salmonellosis reported to the CDC.

The number of pet reptiles in the U.S. is again increasing. According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association 2000 survey on pet ownership, 3.9 million American households have one or more pet reptiles. This is a shocking 44% increase since 1998. Reptile-associated salmonellosis cases have risen along with the current pet reptile trend.

It is clear that current public education efforts and media attention on this issue have been ineffective in preventing this illness since the number of annual reptile-associated salmonellosis cases reported to the CDC have nearly doubled since 1995. In a 1999 public advisory the CDC stated that reptile-associated salmonellosis poses a "substantial health threat to humans."

In addition, reptiles are subject to serious abuse and neglect in the reptile trade. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of reptiles caught in the wild die within their first year of captivity due to mistreatment and neglect suffered during their capture and transport. Many reptiles, both wild-caught and capitive-bred, also perish at the hands of reptile owners who are unprepared to meet the specialized care requirements of these animals.

The sale of reptiles as pets should be banned in order to protect the American public, and in particular children, from reptile-associated salmonellosis. This action will also eliminate the needless animal suffering and mortality brought about by the reptile trade.

To the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Please extend the current ban on the sale of hatchling turtles to include all reptiles sold as pets in the United States.

This will reduce the "substantial health threat to humans", as reported by the CDC due to reptile-associated salmonellosis.

The Ban the Sale of Reptiles as Pets petition to The Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was written by humanesociety and is in the category Health at GoPetition.