- Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- United States of America
On September 6, 2001, the Humane Society of the United States released a report recommending the federal government place a ban on the import, export and sale of reptiles; a $2 billion dollar per year industry.
The reasons for this proposed ban were based on statistics gleaned from a 1999 CDC report, which stated that reptile-related salmonellosis is a significant human health issue. The Humane Society failed to mention that the figure they quoted only makes up less than 7% of all salmonellosis cases reported nationwide. The Humane Society also quoted the USDA regarding the impact of captive reptiles on livestock health. Other statistics from unverified sources were used to demonstrate the presumption of short longevity of wild caught reptiles as well as impacts on wild populations.
Modern herpetologists as well as herptoculturalists recognize that the key to safely and humanely maintaining reptiles in captivity begins with education. Information regarding sanitary handling methods greatly reduces chances of contracting reptile-related salmonellosis. Simple methods such as hand washing after handling reptiles greatly reduces the chances of contracting salmonellosis. It is easier and more common to contract salmonellosis from improper food preparation than from reptiles. Instituting public awareness of proper sanitary guidelines regarding reptile salmonellosis, similar to ones currently in place regarding meat and poultry, would be more effective than outright banning of reptiles.
The import of wild caught reptiles has been cited as a threat to livestock health within the United States. However, there are no current standards enforced regarding the health of these animals before they enter the United States. Many importers are allowed to bring their reptiles in with little or no inspection by the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. Many do not even have to go through a standard quarantine period. Providing guidelines regarding imported reptile health would be more effective than a total ban of the import of reptiles into the United States.
Resources detailing proper husbandry techniques have become readily available through numerous up-to-date publications as well as via the internet. Many responsible owners are now aware of these resources and are utilizing them to ensure a long healthy life for their reptiles.
The increasing number of commercial breeders is making captive bred and born reptiles more attainable and desirable to the public. This increasing number of captive bred and born reptiles has made the demand for wild caught specimens slowly dwindle.
We feel that instead of instituting a ban on this growing industry, that the government make reptile husbandry education and sanitary practices a priority.