Are Slider Turtles Choice Pets?

Are Slider Turtles Choice Pets?

Another question from my Tribune Media Services newspaper column:

Q: My 12-year-old son really wants a pair of slider turtles. These pets were popular when I was young. I checked online and found that sliders spread salmonella and are now banned in some places. Our son is so determined that he created a power point presentation on sliders that was quite persuasive. What do you think? -- B.K. Tampa, FL

A: As your son likely pointed out in his presentation, you can keep yellow-bellied sliders as pets in Florida. However, red eared slider turtles (a subspecies) are illegal. The explanation is that the red eared sliders could get out and mate with the wild indigenous yellow-bellied species, according to Katrina Smith, of Baltimore, MD, author of "Animal Planet: Red Eared Sliders" (TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ, 2011; $10.95)

Salmonella is a potential concern, but not if the turtle doesn't scratch or bite you, and if you simply wash your hands after handling the pet or cleaning its habitat.

Smith points out that slider turtles may live for 20 years. Also, these pets continue growing and females can reach about 11-inches (males are about half that size). That's a tad larger than a dinner plate!

Adult sliders need a minimum 55-gallon tank, equipped with a canister filter, basking platform and heat lamp, as well as aquatic decorations.

Outdoor turtles can live koy fish-type ponds (in warm climates), but require protection from raccoons and other prey animals.

Smith, adoptions coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, suggests thinking about adoption or rescue rather than buying a turtle. Check at www.petfinder.com or contact a local herpetological group about available turtles and tortoises.

┬ęSteve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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