Q. A new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film hits theaters Friday. What should parents do if a child enamored of the movie asks for a pet turtle?
A. Every time there's another Ninja Turtle movie, kids' interest in pet turtles rises, says Susan Tellem, co-founder of the California-based American Tortoise Rescue. That's not a good thing, she says. "Don't buy the turtle," Tellem advises parents tempted to give in to a pleading child.
She says that after each flick about the crime-fighting turtles Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo was released in the early 1990s and in 2007, turtle rescue organizations saw increases in the number of turtles turned in to rescue shelters, or, worse yet, released into rivers or abandoned after a few weeks or months.
"Little Johnny loses total interest in it because it doesn't do what a ninja turtle does," Tellem says.
"That's definitely something I have heard before," agrees Steve DeSimone, director of the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium, saying that some turtles may be abandoned because interest wanes or the turtle gets bigger than the owner wants to accommodate.
Tellem says turtles also can be a health risk, carrying salmonella, a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting in humans.
Parents are better off distracting their child with other movie-related options, she says. "Buy action figures, backpacks," Tellem says. "There's going to be a huge market for all of that stuff."