Giving live animals as Easter gifts has been a long-standing tradition, but there are serious public health and humane concerns. Year after year hundreds of human illnesses and agonizing deaths for baby chicks, ducks and rabbits are caused by this gift-giving tradition. However, this has done nothing to curb the practice.
While many of these cases go unreported, from 2000 to 2018, there were 76 Salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry, resulting in 5,128 cases, 950 hospitalizations, and 7 deaths. This Easter, it is recommended to stick to candy and other gifts to avoid the risk of illnesses and animal abandonment.
One of the main problems with giving live animals as gifts is that children are often the recipients, and they are among the most likely to not observe good hygiene around the animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that children younger than 5 years of age should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry, as they are even more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.
Humane societies and animal rights groups across the U.S. advise against purchasing live animals as Easter gifts, citing the risk of animal “dumping” after the child loses interest in the pet. This can lead to tragedy for the pet and is an ecological concern. Domestic rabbits, for instance, are not prepared for life in the wild and make easy prey for predators. They can also compete with other rabbit species, potentially destroy native plants, and reproduce rapidly. Domestic rabbits can also carry and spread diseases, such as the RHD virus, to indigenous rabbit species.
For more information on handling chicks safely watch the short video below.
About Salmonella infections
Food and animals contaminated with Salmonella bacteria do not usually look different that non-contaminated products. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has handled live poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after handling infected animals or eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.
Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.
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