Turtle crackdown launched in Camden

Officials in Camden are cracking down on the sale and ownership of turtles, which is illegal in the city.

May 25, 2010 5:30:47 PM PDT
It's not exactly a shell game, but law enforcement is going after the illegal sale and possession of pet turtles.

It's a clandestine operation. It's like a black market. Alongside the regular street vendors in Camden are people selling tiny turtles in plastic boxes for between $10 and $15.

"Yeah, you see people selling them from their cars or sometimes you see them on the streets selling them," Angel Ruiz of Camden told Action News.

"I got 8 of them," Ashanti Watkins said. "I like them because they're little. They're cute. Look at them, they're cute!"

Cute, maybe, but completely illegal and animal control officials in Camden are cracking down. Health concerns are one reason. The turtles can carry salmonella on their shells and transmit it when people pick them up.

It's illegal to sell turtles in all of New Jersey, but if you buy one out of state you can keep it as a pet, except in the city of Camden. Local laws here make it illegal to own a turtle under any circumstance.

"It's a pet. That's like saying you can't own a dog!" Camden resident George Kerney said. "I love my little turtle. It's name is Pinky."

"We're not even supposed to have them. They're not supposed to be selling them and stuff," said Sharon Brown, "and I lost $15 on a stinking turtle!"

Animal control has been getting calls from people who are trying to help track down the vendors that are illegally selling turtles. But not everyone is sure it should be a priority.

"Camden has more problems than turtles," according to Tye Smith. "So I think they need to be working on other problems instead of worrying about turtles."