Turtles have been sold in pet stores for many years and people find them to be cute and easy to look after. Compared with a cat or dog, they are fairly low maintenance animals. The problem is that there is a danger associated with keeping turtles and so they are not recommended as a pet for a child. You would be better off buying a goldfish.
This is mainly because turtles carry bacteria called Salmonella which can cause an illness called salmonellosis. Turtles are not the only way to catch Salmonella bacteria, but they mostly do carry these bacteria, so you need to be careful.
This illness causes you to be sick to your stomach with vomiting and diarrhea and is especially dangerous in people who have a compromised immune system, are elderly or are very young. The CDC in the United States has stated that the number of cases of salmonellosis has increased over the years and even though turtles are not the only carriers of the bacteria, having a turtle in the house is not advised. If you do have a turtle you should be very careful to wash your hands very thoroughly after touching it. It is also not wise to let a turtle walk around on a surface where you prepare food. The tank water will also contain the bacteria so wash your hands after putting them in the tank. The very small turtles that are less than 4 inches in size have been banned from sale in the United States because they seem to have a higher propensity for carrying Salmonella bacteria than do the larger sized turtles.
Certain types of turtles can bite you badly. For instance, the snapping turtle has a very strong bite. It has the potential to cut off fingers. It is important you explain to children, to not touch wild animals they may find and see in the wild. A snapping turtle unlike other turtles can’t withdraw into its shell. It thus defends by hissing and biting, and although not a naturally aggressive animal is likely to bite you if you try to touch it. These turtles have a very strong and powerful bite and should not be handled. You should keep in mind that other turtles are also likely to try to bite you if you touch them.
Often people try to rescue turtles that are crossing a busy road. Be careful if you try to do this and pick up a turtle to move it as their instinct will be to try to bite you. Often, they will try to bring their neck around and bite you. Soft shell snapping turtles have a very flexible neck so be especially careful they do not reach you. It is better to try to move a turtle you are rescuing by placing it into a box for transport rather than to try and carry it. You also should not take turtles out of the wild to keep as pets. If you do want to have a pet turtle, then you should buy from a reputable pet store where the bacterial load will no doubt be less than for a wild caught turtle.