Katrina Smith, South Carolina
Helped Stop the Illegal Trade of Slider Turtles
For years, tourist shops in Myrtle Beach, SC, have been illegally selling baby slider turtles to the public, much as they do in NYC's Chinatown. They tell the tourists that the turtles won't grow any larger and don't need much care. Thousands of these babies die each year from improper care, and many are later abandoned as they get bigger.
So, when a fellow animal welfare advocate was on vacation in Myrtle Beach in 2004 and emailed me about the baby turtles she was seeing for sale, we took action. She didn't know the address of the first store, but knew the name, so I called City Hall to get an address from the business permit for the store. Then, I found the closest regional FDA office (which was actually in Georgia), and she and I both called the Food and Drug Administration to lodge a consumer complaint on the stores that she saw selling baby turtles. It took a couple of months for the authorities to act, but in July 2004, over 200 baby turtles were confiscated from 5 stores in Myrtle Beach! They were taken to the local humane society and later adopted by a facility that could care for them. It's a small thing compared to the number of baby sliders sold illegally each year, but it was a victory nonetheless.
If other people see baby turtles being sold in tourist areas, in pet stores, mall kiosks, flea markets or carnivals, in all 50 states, they can call the FDA to lodge a complaint— and the caller's information is confidential. It only takes one voice to make a difference. The regional FDA phone number can be found on their website.