DENOMME and TATTERSALL: Lizards, snakes and turtles: Dispelling the myths about reptiles as pets

Brock Biological Sciences PhD student Melanie Denomme and Biological Sciences Professor Glenn Tattersall had a piece recently published in The Conversation that explores reasons why the general public views reptiles differently than other animal species when they are kept as pets.

They write:

“Reptiles are all the rage. Mochi the bearded dragon is a viral sensation, with over 1.8 million views on YouTube. Meanwhile, Chris Pratt is singing to his bearded dragon while walking it on a leash, and he is just one of many other celebrities with pet reptiles. It is obvious that having reptiles as pets has gained popularity in recent years.

But there is a growing number of people opposed to owning these animals as pets. Their concerns range from reptiles posing a serious danger to public health to beliefs about reptiles being too cold to love. Why do reptiles get a bad rap?

Reptile-borne diseases

Critics of reptile pet ownership often state that reptiles are riddled with diseases, and while it is true that reptiles do harbour disease, the risk is often far lower than people realize. This fear may be due to outbreaks of salmonella in people that occurred nearly half a century ago: In the 1970s, turtles suddenly became a popular pet, and reptile-borne salmonella incidences increased, representing about 11 per cent of all human cases. 

In North America, people are more likely to acquire salmonella from consuming animal products. Education campaigns and legislation in the 1990s led to a significant reduction in reptile-borne salmonella, decreasing it to just six per cent of cases.”

Continue reading the full article here.

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