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Important Legal Issues, the 4” Law

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If you purchased your RES as a hatchling, it’s very likely that they were sold illegally. If you are keeping a wild-caught (or similarly “found”) turtle, then it is possible that you are breaking a state law. You cannot simply release a turtle when you can no longer care for it. Here are some possible legal scenarios on RES:
  • The U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of viable eggs and pet turtles with shells less than 4" in length are directly associated to the rise of salmonella infections. It was incorrectly believed those over 4" survived the disease or were less likely to carry it. These laws introduced in 1975 have been amended several times and have been effective in reducing infections and are still in effect. Despite recent claims and articles, salmonella can still be carried and transmitted by turtles. Although it is easy to avoid transmission, it is still a potential health hazard.

  • There are laws regarding the release of turtles - millions of hatchlings have been farmed, collected and exported to where some have established themselves in non-native habitats. As a result, they displace native terrapins and overpopulate or do not survive.

  • In some regions, local laws allow for the capture and captivity of wild turtles. This obviously puts them at greater risk for capture and sale for profit.

  • Comment: We do not encourage anyone to take wild turtles or tortoises unless it is strictly for the safety and well being of the animal. The animal should be brought to the appropriate organization or be administered the correct veterinary care.

FDA logoIt is not illegal to own a RES under 4" but they are not commercially available under that size. Therefore, legitimate businesses (e.g., Petco, Petland, PetSmart) are restricted but private hobbyists are not. Apparently, the sale of a turtle as a pet is different when it is sold as a hobby. There are deceptive ways to sell hatchlings, like so-called adoptions in which you pay a high-shipping rate. In some cases they can be offered free of charge if certain equipment were purchased. Many illegally selling turtles often offer a simple claim of ignorance.
Note: The Turtle Talk forum does not allow any posting or the linking of any site, business or individual (this applies to hobbyists) that sells turtles. We also do not permit the linking of anyone selling ANY type of animal. This may include legitimate reasons and we will determine what actions to seek on such topics on an individual basis. Topics and posts may be subject to editing and deletion.
Related Topics: Salmonella / Found Turtle

External Links: (opens new window) U.S. FDA Part 1240 / Center for Veterinary Medicine

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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.