In response to a wave of Salmonella outbreaks linked to small, pet turtles that have sickened 219 people in 34 states, Petco has created a turtle turn-in program. The company, which does not sell the turtles in question, will collect them and send them to Concordia Turtle Farm, a turtle exporter based in Wildsville, La.
The sale and distribution of turtles with shells less than four inches in length has been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1975 because of the Salmonella risk these animals pose. Under the new program, the turtles can be turned at Petco with no questions asked and be transferred to the farm where they can live in suitable conditions. Releasing these turtles into the wild is not recommended as they are not likely to survive and may introduce diseases to wild animals and their environments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
As the current wave of outbreaks illustrates, contact with these tiny animals can cause illness. The CDC advises that consumers should not purchase them from mail-order websites to keep as pets or in classrooms or child care centers where young children may have contact with them. Two thirds of those sickened in these outbreaks are children under 10.
The outbreak strains include Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona, and Salmonella Poona. By state the case count is as follows: The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Alaska (2), Arizona (6), Arkansas (2), California (49), Colorado (5), Delaware (3), Georgia (5), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Kansas (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maryland (6), Massachusetts (5), Michigan (3), Minnesota (1), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), Nevada (9), New Jersey (10), New Mexico (6), New York (29), North Carolina (3), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (18), South Carolina (6), Tennessee (5), Texas (22), Vermont (1), Virginia (5), Wisconsin (1), and West Virginia (2).