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Re: Herps in the classroom

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Posted by Ed Stone on April 29, 2001 at 14:46:58:

In Reply to: Re: Herps in the classroom posted by John Meltzer-RJ Reptiles on April 24, 2001 at 04:19:10:

: : Hi John, nice to hear from you.
: : The WI Herpetological Society was recently informed by several schools that we formerly did herp presentations for that our services (free!) were no longer welcome due to the potential for Reptile Associated Salmonella. Teachers said that some national educators publication ran an article on the zoonotic disease dangers of animals in the classroom and the liability issues for schools. Is this feeling prevalent around the country? I have a relative that is a teacher and a long time ago I gave her a box turtle for her classroom and she recently gave it back to me after seeing the article ( I have not seen the article or know where it was published). this was actually a year or two ago.
: : : How many teachers keep herps in the classroom and what types? I've placed lots of reptiles in classrooms and done lots of educational programs and am curious. Thanks. John

: Hi Ed,
: I have ran into the salmonella issue a few times. I haven't had any teachers want herps out of the classroom due to it. When I let kids touch the animals I make them wash their hands after. I have mixed emotions about letting them touch them or not. I hope it never comes to not being able to let kids have a hands on experience with herps. John

In WI this is apparently become a big enough deal for the WI DNR and WI Dept.of Health to collect data on RAS and other zoonotic diseases. They have issued public statements to the press and are trying to enact state legislation that would
prevent the ownership, sale, or exhibiting of reptiles and other wildlife or exotic animals.
They claim that reptiles are a public health hazard due to salmonella, and that other popular small pets, such as hedgehogs, sugar gliders, degus, prairie dogs etc, can be carriers of tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and even leprosy! This may be true of wild caught imports, but I think it is highly unlikely that captive bred animals are likely hosts for such diseases. The reading I have done on this indicates that the animals are exposed to these types of diseases in the wild, before capture and export. Captive bred colonies are unlikely to have this exposure. DNR position on this is that ownership needs to be restricted or banned because these animals are injurious to the environment because if they escape these diseases could become established in native wildlife.

There have been a number of salmonella cases and at least one death in WI in the last several years. Some of these were contracted from Zoos that allowed children to touch reptiles. Several cases resulted from school programs involving out of state reptile educators. I was told UW-Dept of Ag and Vet Sciences that it was Animal Planets Jim Fowler, who allowed children to handle a small alligator at a school tour
here in madison WI several years ago. Apparently this can happen. I think it is especially obnoxious when out of state people come in and make problems for local herpers with these kinds of incidents. I saw Keith Gisser do his Herps Alive program at a school here recently and was appalled at his irresponsible conduct, in allowing unsupervised reptile handling by the kids that resulted in abusive treatment of the animals (he was not paying attention) that could have easily have resulted in children being bitten.
I have given up trying to "make people wash their hands" , you cant make people do anything.
In my programs, before presenting any reptile to the public, I thoroughly wash them in a 10% Nolvasan solution (a chlorine-based disinfectant designed for use on living tissue) and allow to dry 15 minutes.
This kills all bacteria and most viruses that may be on the animal and makes them safe for public contact. I use it on everything larger than a bearded dragon and have never had adverse result to the animal as long as it is kept out of the eyes, nose, and mouth. the wash and wear integument of reptiles lends itself well to this.
I do this in front of the public and explain why.
this give me an opportunity to discuss zoonotic diseases and the importance of sanitation. I would definitely reccommend others do this as well.

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