Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where'd you get that turtle?

Today we received a phone call from a gentleman who had a turtle question. Getting turtle questions is quite common during certain times of the year here at WINC because there isn’t as much education reaching the public about them as there is about animals like birds or raccoons. The difference was that the turtles he had questions about had come from Florida, not Wisconsin!

Although the Wildlife In Need Center answers nearly 10,000 phone calls each year and has admitted over 36,000 wildlife patients representing over 140 species that are native to Wisconsin, we often get calls like these as well because very few other agencies and nonprofits in the area are equipped to answer these types of questions. Unfortunately,

WINC cannot provide any care for or advice on care for domestic animals.

...even if the animal in question is considered “exotic” and may be difficult to find advice on through traditional resources. What we can and always try to do is help these individuals to seek out the resources that might actually be beneficial for their individual situation.

According to "The sale or distribution of turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches has been banned in the US since 1975 (Title 21 CFR 1240.62)." The sale of these quarter-sized turtles to the caller 2 year ago should not have been allowed under federal law. goes on to explain that "The ban was brought into effect under the Public Health Services Act by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the problem of Salmonella infections in children." While reptiles of all kinds carry Salmonella, the Salmonella they carry that can actually infect humans is passed to the turtles from us to begin with. This is why we institute high levels of sanitation and security with all of our turtle patients here in the clinic.
 In the caller's case the turtles had been purchased at a store in Florida while he was away on business and had now outgrown the tank and time he was willing to invest in them. Although I just said we couldn’t provide advice on domestic animal care, we don't have to be a domestic animal shelter to promote EDUCATION when it comes to the decision to make an animal a part of your home. Pets are a responsibility that should not be taken lightly regardless of what species they may be. Consider the age they might live to, the size living quarters they might need during that time, and what amount of care and socialization they are going to require from everyone in your family among other things. If you have an exotic pet you need further resources on, talk to your local humane shelter, a trusted and reputable pet supply center, or visit our Resources page for links to helpful people in these situations. Both the caller and I were grateful that he’d called before releasing these turtles in a pond down the road from his house. I was able to direct him to contact one of several reptile specialty breeders in the area to see if they would be willing to help find suitable new homes for them instead.

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