The sale and distribution of turtles with a carapace smaller than four inches in diameter was banned by federal law in 1975 on the grounds that such animals were frequently associated with human Salmonella infections. However, the popularity of these small turtles as pets has resurfaced, and in many places in Michigan they are being sold illegally. This study was conducted in Michigan to determine the prevalence of Salmonella spp. in the most popular pet turtle species, Trachemys scripta elegans commonly known as red-eared sliders, and to evaluate the compliance of pet stores with laws concerning the sale of these animals. One hundred and fifty pet stores nearest to the center of five large cities in Michigan (30 each for Lansing, Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids) were contacted by phone. During this study, it was found that 41% (7/17) of the stores that indicated that they sold turtles also sold small turtles. Those seven stores were visited and sanitary conditions, animal housing, client education offered, and requirements for sale were observed. Each of these stores sold the authors a small turtle without asking any questions. One store required the authors to sign a form stating that they were buying the turtle for educational purposes, but did not require any verification. Each of the turtles bought was tested for Salmonella carriage. Six out of seven (86%) purchased turtles were positive for Salmonella spp. Among the positive turtles, the serotypes found were S. Litchfield (2/7), S. Norwich (1/7), and S. Welteverden (1/7), one was confirmed as Salmonella but untypable and another was contaminated upon arrival at NVSL and not serotyped. This study showed that the nationwide ban on the sale of turtles with carapaces smaller than four inches in diameter is not being adequately enforced in Michigan, and that the turtles being sold have a high prevalence of Salmonella carriage.

Included in

Public Health Commons