After the release of movies or TV shows featuring animals (even animated ones), people often get caught up in the fad of buying real-life versions of the animal stars.
For example, despite the movie’s anti-captivity message, sales of clownfish soared after the release of Finding Nemo, as did sales of owls in the wake of the Harry Potter movies. According to Blue Cross, the number of huskies and similar breeds at its rehoming centres has increased by 700 per cent over the past five years, likely because of fans of fantasy shows and films such as Game of Thrones and Twilight. Later, after realising that it’s difficult to make a lifetime commitment to an animal purchased on impulse, many buyers either ignore their briefly cherished companion animals or abandon them.
So, with the upcoming release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, PETA is writing to parents groups urging families not to rush out and buy turtles.
Because of issues with abusive dealers, breeders and smugglers, not to mention guardians who have no idea how to care for an exotic animal properly, buying a turtle is a bad idea from start to finish. Pet shop employees are rarely trained to tend to the complex social, physical and psychological needs of reptiles and therefore can’t educate even the best-intentioned prospective caretakers. It is predictable, then, that stress, disease and death will follow.
A recent scientific analysis in The Biologist, a prestigious magazine published by the Society of Biology, shows that three-quarters of all “pet” reptiles die during their first year in UK homes.
Reptiles are often infected with salmonellosis and other zoonotic diseases. In the 1970s, the sale of turtles less than 4 inches long was banned in the US in order to stop the growing number of reported salmonellosis cases. The ban resulted in a 77 per cent reduction in the disease the following year.
Taking on the responsibility of caring for an animal is a serious matter and shouldn’t be done on a whim. If you can give an animal a home, visit a shelter – where the staff will take the time to discuss your circumstances and find the perfect animal match for you – rather than a heartless breeder or a money-grabbing pet shop.