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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Ask Dr. Dunham: Answers to Some of CVM’s Most Frequently Asked Questions

by Bernadette Dunham, DVM, PhD, Director, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

While CVM’s website is home to tons of information about FDA-regulated animal products, CVM also receives questions from consumers daily, via both e-mail and phone. Each of the questions below is based on several inquiries CVM has received from consumers on the same topic.

A pet store near me is selling baby turtles. Is it true that it’s illegal to sell turtles smaller than 4 inches? Who should I contact to report the pet store?

You are correct. In the United States, it is illegal to sell turtles smaller than 4 inches. FDA enforces the provision of the Public Health Service Act that bans the sale of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long. The ban has been in effect in the United States since 1975 because of public health concerns about the strain of Salmonella found on many turtle shells and in turtle habitats. Please contact your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator to report the pet store.

I read online that a supplement can treat my dog’s illness. Is the supplement safe to give to my pet?

Your veterinarian is the best source of information about your pet’s health. You and your veterinarian should discuss how to best treat your pet for any illness.

If the label on the supplement suggests that the product can “treat” or “prevent” a disease, the manufacturer is making a drug claim and the supplement should be regulated by FDA as an animal drug. If the product is an animal drug but has not been reviewed under FDA’s approval process, it is an unapproved animal drug. Unapproved animal drugs may not meet FDA’s strict standards for safety and effectiveness. With no review by FDA, there is no way for pet owners and veterinarians to know if the supplement is safe or if the claims on the label are true.

Contact CVM with any questions by e-mailing AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov or calling 240-276-9300.