Council bans dwarf aquatic frogs over salmonella fears


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A city in Canada has banned the keeping of African dwarf frogs due to the risk of salmonella.

The tiny frogs are popular pets for children in Canada and the US, where they are often sold as educational 'toys' in small plastic tanks called EcoAquariums.

However, councillors in Markham, Ontario have decided that the health risks associated with keeping them as pets is just too great.

According to a report to the council, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US has reported 241 individuals infected with salmonella in 42 states since April 1, 2009. Those infections were associated with African dwarf frogs and the water from their tanks.

It warned that children under five, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are all at high risk and should avoid contact with the frogs, water and their habitats.

EcoAquariums are made by the US company Wild Creations, available as either a 10cm/4" cube or a 6" x 4" tank. Each comes with a pair of frogs, a lucky bamboo plant, decorative rock, 'living gravel', a choice of coloured gravel and a care guide.

It's said to be one of the hottest toys on the market in the US, where it has won multiple toy industry awards.

While Markham’s legislative services staff reported no cases in the area of salmonella attributable to the keeping of dwarf frogs, councillors decided they should be banned for the good of public health.

The new bylaw prohibits the keeping of African dwarf frogs, both by retailers and consumers, although people who already own them will be allowed to keep them until the frogs die.

Rhett Power, president and co-founder of Wild Creations, told that the decision was "very drastic and an over-reaction".

"These frogs have been part of the aquarium industry for more than 45 years...They’re safe, they’re tested, we go to greater lengths than for any other creature to test for problems. You don’t go out and test your goldfish or guppies or Betta."

He said that just as with any aquatic animals — and pets in general — owners should wash their hands after handling them or their environment. "Same thing if you’re preparing chicken on the countertop. It’s sort of common sense."

Power suggested the "excessive" caution might be due to the fact that the frogs are marketed toward young children, but put most of the blame on organisations such as PETA, which he said were trying to scare people because they don't like the product.

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