Pry my turtle from my cold, dead hands, Tennessee!

I understood that Tennessee and I would never see eye-to-eye after a few visits to the place. I made it to one meeting on time because it was on one side of a time zone while I missed a meeting the next time I went down there because it was on the other side of a time zone.

One state, two time zones. Pick a fucking side. You did it in the Civil War. You can do it now.

In the midst of a visit about three years ago, I found myself ambling down some street in Nashville and nothing but country music was pouring out of every window.

I also had a bouncer ask me to come in for a “Hollar and Swallar” event.

However, an article that popped up on my radar the other day bugged the shit out of me.The state of Tennessee is outlawing the sale of turtles because they are dangerous carriers of salmonella.

The rationale behind the ban of turtles is that they are moist, can pull their skin back into their shells and thus create a breeding ground for the bacteria.

“It’s just common sense,” according to Walter Cook, the captive wildlife coordinator of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

As A’s husband was always fond of noting, if it were common sense, everyone would have it.

First, almost ALL reptiles have some form of salmonella associated with them, but it’s in their digestive tract and it usually becomes introduced into the environment via their feces.According to animal studies, while 85 percent of turtles carry the bacteria, 92 percent of snakes carry it. To date, I can find no statewide Tennessee ban on our slithering friends.

Second, the way these bacteria are transferred from reptiles to humans is through ingestion. In other words, you have to put something with the bacteria in your mouth after coming in contact with it. No eat, no treat. This is true of all salmonella contact, including the consumption of raw chicken and other meats or the bags of spinach that somehow manage to be unclean in the fine food processing plants throughout the world. Unless you plan to lick your lizard, you should be fine.

Third, beyond licking a turtle, you can handle the thing and transfer the bacteria through handling and transference to food, food-preparation surfaces or other similar things. According to experts on the topic, this means we are all doomed because once salmonella enters the atmosphere, it’s like the Zombie Virus and no one is safe.Or…

Fortunately, by following some good common hygiene practices and avoiding contact with the feces of these animals as much as possible, we can easily prevent the spread of Salmonella. These basic preventive recommendations include:

· Wear disposable gloves or wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water after handling reptiles, reptile cages and equipment, and the stool of reptiles.

· Do not allow reptiles to have access to the kitchen, dining room, or any other area in which food is prepared.

· Do not use the kitchen sink, kitchen counters, bathroom sinks or bathtubs to bathe reptiles or to wash reptile cages, dishes, or aquariums. Also, do not allow reptiles to have access to bathroom sinks and tubs or to any area where infants are bathed. Reptile owners may wish to purchase a plastic basin or tub in which to bathe or swim their reptiles. Waste water and fecal material should be disposed of in the toilet instead of the bathtub or household sink.

· Wash all food and water bowls and equipment with hot soapy water and disinfect with a chlorhexidine or household bleach solution (remember to rinse all disinfected utensils with clean water before using).

· Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling reptiles, reptile cages, or reptile equipment. Do not kiss reptiles or share food or drink with them.

So wait, all we have to do is wash our hands, not French kiss the things, keep the poop out of our food areas and exercise common sense and we won’t die? Nah. Too hard. We’re banning the bastards…

Fourth, the majority of the cases of salmonella that get ugly in a hurry are those involving infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. In other words, people for whom germs of ANY KIND are more likely to fuck over.

Look, I get the idea of protecting people from things that are dangerous, even in spite of themselves.

It’s why we ban fireworks in certain places or at least restrict them to the point that 5-year-olds can’t buy the Megatron Bomb that promises that the Mars Rover can see it from space.

It’s why we keep kids out of porn stores. When the question, “Mommy, where did I come from?” comes up, it may be an awkward question, but the answer shouldn’t be “Here’s $50. Go to Pleasures and get a copy of “Gentlemen Prefer Bridget” and learn something.

It’s why we keep playing “chicken” with the tobacco industry by raising prices and placing photos of cancerous lungs on their product.

In this fine state of Tennessee, various cities and areas have engaged ina number of laws to save us all from danger, including the banning of “It Ain’t Goin’ to Rain No Mo,” forbidding people under the age of 18 from playing pinball and prohibiting men from having an erection in public.

However, in a state that is listed among the top 20 for most gun deaths per 100,000 citizens, you would think that state officials might be thinking a bit more broadly about how they are protecting citizens.

You need no licensing to purchase a gun or own a gun and the state has no “assault weapon” law. Concealed or open carry is acceptable for handguns, provided you have a permit. The law does not require you to retreat before using deadly force, provided you are in a place that you have a right to be in and you fear death or harm.

I can’t imagine what kind of shit storm would occur if any state agency just up and decided one day, “Y’know, this gun shit is dangerous. Fuck it. You can’t have it.”

I can point to a newspaper, a website or a TV broadcast in any decent sized city on any given day and say, “A gun killed this person.”

I want the gun folks in Tennessee to show me the last guy or gal who was killed with a turtle. The minute some asshole storms a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” or begins an assault on a Sikh Temple with a bag of African Side-necks and sheath of Red-eared sliders, I’m totally anti-turtle.

The words that come forth first when it comes to gun control opponents are “rights” and “personal freedom” and “personal responsibility” and as much as I think that’s horseshit, I also think it should be something that goes beyond weaponry.

If I have the right to a hand cannon in Nashville, I should also have the right to a turtle.

4 thoughts on “Pry my turtle from my cold, dead hands, Tennessee!

  1. Actually, the citizens of Tennessee had a hard time picking sides in the Civil War complete with a Senator who refused to secede. The country would have been better off, however, if Andrew Johnson had become a confederate Senator instead of a bad President.

  2. Doc, may I add that Salmonella may also be found in a majority of the poultry of your local meat market?
    Major sources of exposure to salmonella (and mass food poisoning) come from improperly cooked food and food which has been sitting at the wrong temperature for too long – especially church picnics?
    And that one should wash their hands after contact with almost any animal (including domestic cats and dogs)?
    But I also get your bigger point on the lack of proportionality on which things are legislated and which hazards are not (especially with the ardent support of the total lack of limits on firearms as in who needs an assault weapon).
    BTW – A certain Tennessee town holds the honor of having used a crane to hang an elephant for murder (after the elephant had squashed a spectator at a parade). But in their defense, the lawbooks are full of outdated and stupid and ridiculous laws.

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