In a Federal Register Notice to publish today, the FDA is issuing a direct Final Rule that eliminates the destruction of certain turtle eggs and turtles less than 4 inches by or under the supervision of an FDA investigator (see FR notice here).

The original regulation with was designed to stop the spread of turtle-related salmonellosis (particularly to children) banned the sale or possession of certain turtle eggs or live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches.  Remember those little turtles we all used to have as a kid at one time or another? Well, not that they were on the endangered species list but now, as the new regulation states, there are other more humane ways to deal with “illegal” turtles or turtle eggs such as: “ Raising the turtles until the turtles achieve a carapace length of 4 inches or greater; donating the viable turtle eggs or live turtles to an entity that meets one of the bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibitional exemptions, as provided in the regulations; or exporting the turtles in compliance with all applicable laws.”

The direct Final Rule goes on to say: “[A]lthough FDA does not believe that it is necessary to routinely demand destruction of viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches, as provided for in the regulations, FDA recognizes that it has the authority and obligation to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease, especially in the face of widespread outbreaks or other public health emergencies. FDA retains the authority to destroy or order the destruction of viable turtle eggs or live turtles of any size under 21 CFR 1240.30, which provides that, “[w]henever the Commissioner of Food and Drugs determines that the measures taken by

health authorities of any State or possession (including political subdivision thereof) are insufficient to prevent the spread of any of the communicable diseases . . . he may take such measures to prevent such spread of the diseases as he deems reasonably necessary, including . . . destruction of animals or articles believed to be sources of infection.”

Let’s hear it for the turtles, even though those fish tanks we used to populate with those cute little green turtles must still only house mice, rats, fish or hamsters, they will at least perhaps get a new leash on life.