Next time your kid says “Can we keep it?” - if they’re looking at a turtle, just say no! Last year, 107 people got salmonella poisoning because of turtles. Most of them were children who had to be hospitalized! The problem is that all turtles carry the bacteria, salmonella, on their shells and bodies, but they don’t develop symptoms of salmonella poisoning like humans do. So if they’re handled at all, the salmonella can easily spread. If your pet turtle lives in an aquarium, the water makes the problem worse; it’s basically a mini bacteria swimming pool!

According to the Associated Press, because of salmonella, it’s been illegal to sell turtles smaller than four inches wide for the past 30 years in the U.S. Why? Because smaller turtles are not only more likely to be chosen as pets because they’re tiny and cute – it’s also more likely that a kid will stick a tiny turtle in their MOUTH! However, that hasn’t stopped disreputable dealers. The American Veterinary Medical Association says the number of pet turtles has doubled in the last ten years. Outbreak experts say most people don’t know about the link between salmonella and turtles. People even let their turtles walk on counters where food is prepared, or bathe kids in the tub where they just washed the turtle’s cage. Pediatricians and health experts say all reptiles, including turtles, should be treated like they’re covered in bacteria. If not, the salmonella on their bodies can make an entire family sick.

Salmonella poisoning is serious. Two young girls, who swam with their two pet turtles in a backyard pool, developed severe diarrhea, cramps and nausea. One even went into kidney failure and had to be rushed to the hospital. If you’re thinking about getting a pet turtle, remember it’s illegal to buy one under four inches wide. Experts say no turtles for anyone under five because salmonella poisoning can be fatal for very young children. Also, you can contract salmonella not only by touching the turtle, but also by cleaning their tank. So make sure you do the job with bleach and wearing gloves. Keep your hands clean! Turtles don’t like to be picked up anyway, but if you have to, wear gloves or wash your hands right after!