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Kids should not keep exotic pets, doctors say

Author Alex Bellamy
Submitted 08-10-2008

"Daddy, can I have a puppy?" is a classic challenge to a father’s parenting skills, usually followed by the hopeful response, "How about a hamster instead?"

However, a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics may encourage parents to simply give in to the original request.

The study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, warns against introducing unusual pets such as small rodents, lizards, turtles and baby chicks into homes with small children.

Potential risks associated with these exotic animals include the transmission of infectious diseases such as salmonella.

More than one in ten cases of salmonella among children are the result of contact with reptiles, according to Dr Larry Pickering, lead author of the research.

He and his colleagues urge pediatricians and veterinarians to work together to give parenting advice guidelines about pet ownership.

The report also suggests that kids under five should avoid touching unusual animals at petting zoos.

Figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association reveal that cats are the most commonly owned pet in America, followed by dogs, birds and rabbits.