Illegal Turtle Sales Resume in Columbia Heights

This was a very common problem last year. I don’t blame the buyers but the sellers. At this stage they just look like cute little turtles. However, I was sad to see sales had resumed outside DC USA on 14th St, NW in Columbia Heights because, while I don’t have statistical proof, I fear once the “mini turtles” grow into larger turtles they will end up getting abandoned.

What do you guys think – is the sale of these baby turtles nothing to worry about or do you think they will end up being abandoned when they grow to their adult size?

41 Comment

  • Yeah, hate to see any animals being sold impluse style on the street. Probbaly little or no instructions about care or feeding requirements.

    The City/MPD or whoever should shut this crap down. These little young animals are destined for a cruel short life.

  • Just called the Washington Humane society and they will have MPD’s animal protection folks out there tomorrow…

  • I’m also dismayed by this news. Last year, I tried calling the Washington Humane Society and 311, and didn’t get very good results. Who knows where these clowns get the baby turtles, which are really cute, and most likely doomed to a short and miserable lives. What kind of irresponsible parent would buy their kid a pet from some random guys off the street, anyway?

  • Just called the Washington Humane society and they will have MPD’s animal protection folks out there tomorrow…

  • Oh my god! My younger sister has one of those exact same housing with a baby floating turtle. Her boyfriend bought a turtle for her last month. I told here not to take it, but she did anyway. So now I have to be over her making sure she takes care of the turtle. I’m pretty sure her boyfriend bought the turtle from those sellers in the picture.

    I hope the people who owns them now know that floating turtles are cold blooded and not any house hold light can keep them warm.

  • The vast majority of these little turtles will not live past a few weeks, unfortunately. So no, abandoned adult turtles are probably not going to be the problem, but suffering baby turtles and sad little kids definitely will.

  • Even if these turtles end up having a normal life in someone’s house I think just the idea of a sketchy guy illegally selling turtles on the street is very ghetto/third world.

  • Unfortunately I’ve seen them quite a few times outside of DC USA recently. I wasn’t really clear what was going on usually b/c there was a large crowd around and probably b/c I was rushing, but it always has involved selling small animals like this, including turtles. I think I’ve also seen folks trying to sell fish and possibly amphibians. Regardless, I’m sorry I never attended to it sooner.

  • In addition to the other problems noted, these little turtles carry salmonella. Thousands of kids got sick from handling them and then sticking their hands in their mouths when these turtles were sold in every department store in the 60’s and 70’s. That’s why the sale of these turtles has been banned by federal law for more than 30 years.

    • Their sale is only banned if they’re under a 4 inches. Turtles bigger than that can be bought and sold, though some states don’t allow their sale regardless of size. And they do not necessarily carry salmonella. It’s a very good idea to wash your hands after handling them, though, just in case. I had one for several years and my nephew now has him. Neither of us has gotten sick.

      They are definitely NOT great pets for kids, though. Once they get bigger than this, their tank requires A LOT of cleaning and a very good (i.e., expensive) filter. Having one is a big commitment – it’s not like a goldfish.

  • Where are they getting the turtles? Are they wild-collected or bought from some breeder? (not that either choice would make this any better, but if they are being poached then USFWS might be able to help)

  • Just a point of clarification. Although no one has brought up this myth, these turtles will NOT stay little. These are red-eared sliders that grow to an average of 10 inches in shell length. I know because my wife succumbed to my constant pleas for one (bought from a licensed pet store) about five years ago. What was a tiny thing about the size of a half dollar is now the size of a dinner plate and as heavy as a bowling ball. I still love it, but I knew what I was getting into – about a 30 year commitment.

    Also, it does not matter if you keep them in a small cage, they will grow. It is a complete myth that if you keep them in a cage that is too small for them then they will just grow to the size of the tank. This may be true of goldfish, but the turtle will just suffer in its constricted surroundings.

  • Come on PoP. Don’t be such an apologist for the buyers. Common sense dictates that a guy selling a turtle on the street is probably at least a little shady. People need to stop buying these turtles and the city needs to shut this down.

    Perfect captcha: Officials Lunatics

  • The security guards for this DCUSA complex are really keeping eagle eyes out around the premises, aren’t they?

    • I think that all businesses have a responsibility to patrol their grounds, not just inside where there is AC.

      The larger issues is that DCUSA has done a lousy job on so many fronts. With new real estate agent signs in the windows it looks like they are trying a different tact. With any luck these agents will get some of the stores occupied. The previous signs said “Minority Owned Businesses”, and that got us an IHOP (!?!?).

      This new managment company, if indeed it is one, would also be wise to get rid of the static radio piped in as an excuse for music. Something odd about entering a shopping mall and listening to traffic reports.

  • You must look deeper than just the shell. What if those turtles have narcotics hidden in them?

    And no the security guards are not effective if I’ve seen the cops shoot the shit with these dudes before. And I have.

    • I just had a Breaking Bad flashback from that. (Severed head witha bomb inside on top of a turtle) Yeesssh!

  • The good news is that these critters are not endangered or even close to it:

    The bad news is that they are invasive species around here. They are native to the southern mid-west and their presence threatens a number of native turtles including the Cumberland slider. I actually hope these turtles DO die because, if they don’t, the owners will probably dump the live ones into local waters.

    Globally, wildlife trade is one of the biggest threates to wildlife and biodiversity, along with invasive species. Wildlife trade is believed to be the second-largest illegal trade, after drugs.

  • I think you all are crying too much over this one. What makes you think people who purchase them don’t intend to take care of them? I had a friend who bought one several months ago and is still taking care of it.

    And why should the DC USA Security Guards be responsible for what happens on the street corner. They aren’t police.

    • Just several months ago? Let us know what he does with it in 20 years…

      Appropriate Captcha:
      abhor it

  • I remember, as a kid growing up in NYC, that there were people selling turtles on street corners. There were even stores in Chinatown that would sell turtles (amongst other “exotic animals”) and have them swimming around a large tupperware container for people passing by to see. It was a HUGE problem – partly because, yes, people would tire of having a pet and release it in the sewer, or a local pond/river/lake and it would seriously harm the local ecosystem. The other issue was that these little guys carry a plethora of diseases.

    MPD should really crack down on these guys. If the turtles survive and become to big to care for, they’re going to be released right into Rockcreek Park and have a really serious, negative impact.

    • Rock Creek is too polluted to allow turtles to survive long.

      • I hate when armchair naturalists act like everything is polluted, but have no clue. Sure rock Creek isn’t pure, but there is still a lot of wildlife thriving, even if it could be better. There are fish, frogs, and yes turtles in Rock Creek!

  • My boyfriend and I bought 5 of them and took them to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in NE. So sad and infuriating.

    • You had good intentions, Otis.. but unfortunately buying turtles from these guys gives them a good reason to keep selling them.

  • The key point here is that they aren’t legal. We have laws for a reason.

    We have absolutely no idea where they are coming from. We don’t know what kind of conditions they are living in. Nor have they been screened for any sort of diseases that may be contagious.

    And they’re selling turtles too!

  • Whoops. Just read the above comments. Won’t ever make that mistake again… thought we were doing the right thing.

  • Do these turtles have papers? If they have proper documentation, than I think we should welcome them as new residents to our diverse community. That is, until they become turtle hipsters with ironic tattoos of seagulls and ninja weapons and start bringing their baby turtles to our bars in kiddie pools on wheels. Once that happens we have no recourse but to post angry messages about them on a blog. Turtle Power!

    • Their papers got oily after they tried to swim ashore in Louisiana. I don’t know which of them had the brilliant idea to go to the Gulf coast for spring break.

  • when they get bigger, they’re perfect for a nice pot of turtle soup. Yummy!

  • Thank you so much for clearing up this mystery for me, POP. My husband and I were up in Columbia Heights this past weekend and on Tuesday, and we kept noticing people carrying those plastic neon aquariums containing tiny plastic palm trees and itty-bitty turtles. I had no idea where people were buying them, but I thought that it was pretty funny to see all of the different types of people clutching the carriers–Sunday hat-wearing older ladies, muscular men in tank tops, men and women blustering around in business suits, and of course kids.

  • Don’t get a turtle for a pet. See The HSUS’ website on this issue:

  • Well, HSUS thinks there’s almost nothing that’s OK to keep as a pet… but certainly don’t buy these turtles for all the reasons already indicated.

    But what I would really like to say is, please also pay attention to the posts of Otis who just realized that he has done a very bad thing. Not only didn’t he think about whether the animal could be an invasive species, he also can’t have thought about whether it was perhaps a tropical species that wouldn’t survive the winters here. He just thought “turtle” and “pond” and thought that was all there was to it. It’s not that simple.

    Please don’t try to “help” animals unless you know what you are doing; take your well-meaning impulses to a phone and call the proper authorities. At this time of year it’s especially worth mentioning that this includes not trying to “rescue” “abandoned” baby animals without FIRST researching some reliable info on how you tell if they are really in need of help. Here is a good place to start:

  • I live on this block, corner of 14th and Ogden. I pass by these guys every day. I think its hilarious. Who buys a turtle on impulse? And for what? I blame the consumers for creating a demand for turtles lol. How much are they charging, whatever it is its too much. You couldn’t give me a free turtle. And don’t get me wrong u buy a turtle for a 5 year old cool…..but I see GROWN MEN AND WOMEN buying these turtles ya’ll. Guys buying them for their girlfriends and stuff like that. Dude, there selling roses the next block over! At least those will last longer lol. These guys are making money off saps who are buying something they don’t need and didn’t want until they saw it. Thats America people, stop hating and let these business men take advantage (my two cents)

  • wombatarama,your remark about HSUS isn’t true. They accept that people enjoy having cats and dogs as pets because those animals adapt well to life with humans. And many folks in the pro-animal community live with furry quadrupeds.

    As for the whole turtle thing, my boyfriend and I were in Columbia Heights today and saw these guys out on the street selling turtles. We went into DCUSA and told a security guard, and he told us to go talk to someone from MPD in either Target or Best Buy. So we went up to Target, told the police officer there, and she told us to call 911. *sigh* So I did and I did my very best to give them a good description of the individuals in question.

    Anyone who buys an animal from some random guy on the street is an idiot. I blame both the sellers and the buyers of these poor turtles. After all, if people weren’t buying, these guys wouldn’t be selling them.

  • I said ALMOST nothing, which is true, given the much wider range of animals that are really OK living with people if cared for properly.

    So someone called WHS on the 27th and these guys were still there on the 29th? Sigh. I have some media contacts and some contacts at WHS, I will look into this.

  • The problem is that there is nothing in the animal cruelty law that says turtles can’t be sold on the side of the street regardless of their size. Sounds more like an issue for the people who enforce pet shop laws and health codes (turtles carry some serious diseases) do they have a license to sell? Isn’t that called a vendors license or something?

  • The law in question is federal – there is an FDA regulation banning the sale of turtles under four inches.

    The reasoning behind it is kind of bogus and has nothing to do with animal cruelty but the effect is a good one.

    It’s a valid point that WHS might not be the ones who can enforce this, but they should at least know how to proceed.

  • someone was selling them at 8th and h ne this weekend.

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