Reptiles (e.g. turtles, lizards, snakes) and amphibians (e.g. frogs, salamanders) are popular household pets. While interaction with these animals can be fun and a valuable learning experience for children there are potential health risks. These risks include exposure to infectious diseases, injuries, and allergies. Infectious diseases passed on from animals to humans occurs through direct and indirect contact with animals. Examples of direct contact include petting an animal, while indirect contact can include touching an animal’s environment (e.g. cage, terrarium).
It is important to remember that the Animals Bylaw prohibits certain reptiles from being kept in the City of Toronto.
Reptilian and Amphibian Diseases
A common concern is the transmission of Salmonella bacteria from reptiles and amphibians to humans. Almost all reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria that can be transmitted to children and adults. It is important to know that reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria without being sick. Rodents used to feed some reptiles can also carry Salmonella bacteria or other germs that can make people sick.
People at Higher Risk
Certain groups of people are at increased risk of infection. For example, infants and children, particularly those less than 5 years of age have an increased risk of infection that can cause serious illness. This is due to their developing immune systems and frequent hand-to-mouth activities. Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems are also at increased risk.
- If possible, avoid keeping reptiles and/or amphibians as pets if a person at higher risk of infection lives in your home. Persons at higher risk of infection include infants and children less than 5 years of age, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems.
- Children under 5 years of age should avoid touching reptiles and amphibians (and other animals, if possible).
- Reptiles and amphibians are not recommended at child care centres with children less than 5 years of age.
- Children should avoid touching their faces after any animal contact until hand hygiene can be performed.
- Parents should supervise all contact between animals and children.
- Practice hand hygiene (wash hands or use alcohol-based hand-rub) after handling reptiles and amphibians, or other animals (e.g. after contact with animals, their feed, toys, bedding and/or their environment).
- Keep reptiles and amphibians, along with other pets, away from food preparation areas (e.g. kitchens), or other areas where food is served or consumed.
- Do not allow reptiles and amphibians to roam freely throughout your home.
- As often as possible, clean any equipment or materials (e.g. tanks, feed / water containers) used for caring for reptiles or amphibians outside your home or in another designated area (e.g. utility sink).
- Practice hand hygiene after cleaning any equipment or materials used for caring for reptiles or amphibians.