New Rule Gives Tiny Turtles a Second Chance

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Food and Drug Administration has approved amending a regulation that bans the sale or distribution of small turtles to provide a humane alternative to killing them, the agency announced in a direct final rule.
     The sale of viable turtle eggs and turtles with a shell under four inches in length in interstate and intrastate commerce, unless used for scientific or educational purposes, was banned in 1975. The regulation is meant to protect the public from the spread of Salmonella.
     Salmonella is a bacteria carried on the skin or shells of reptiles and amphibians. It does not make them sick, but it is the cause of serious or even life-threatening infection in people, according to an FDA article.
     Under the regulation, turtles confiscated from would-be distributors were destroyed under the FDA’s supervision.
     Now, 38 years later, the FDA says there is a better way.
     The alternatives might include, “raising the turtles until the turtles achieve a carapace length of four inches or greater; donating the viable turtle eggs or live turtles to an entity that meets one of the bona fide scientific, educational or exhibitional exemptions as provided in the regulations; or exporting the turtles in compliance with all applicable laws.”
     The FDA said the amendment to the regulation does not affect the ban on the turtles’ sale or distribution and violators stand to be fined up to $1,000, serve a one-year prison term or both.
     Infectious disease specialists estimate the ban will prevent 100,000 children every year from getting salmonella. The infections come from small turtles still sold in pet shops, flea markets, street vendors and online stores.

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