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9to5to9: Sorry, guys. No iguanas for you

Submitted by on Monday, 6 October 2008 No Comment

Figuring it would be unfair to bring another living creature into this house when on bad days I can barely handle the two-legged occupants, I’ve managed to beat back requests for pets ranging from dogs to lions. And the occasional dog that looks like a lion.

I dodged a bullet back in the winter when Big Guy’s teenage First Love got a kitten named Bjorn — which Little Guy promptly mangled into Bee-lorn. We were lucky he didn’t mangle the cat as well. Tails look like great pull-strings to a 2-year-old.

Seeing how much Big Guy loved the cat, though, spurred his dad to threaten to get one. Until I reminded him of litter boxes. And hair. And hair balls.

Maybe a fish, he suggested.

Nope. They creep me out.

How about a hamster, he countered.

Looks like I’m off that hook, too, now that there’s a new report in Pediatrics citing the risks to children of exotic pets. Not that I consider a hamster particularly exotic — it’s never been part of my Caribbean beach fantasy, at least.

Same goes for hedgehogs and lizards. Duck, duck, goose — also on the list, along with chicks.

Yes! I’m officially excused on every animal I’d rather not have around the house.

According to an article by The Associated Press, in addition to carrying dangerous germs that inevitably end up in the mouths of the under-5 set, “exotic” pets are more likely to bite and scratch.

The story also ruled out turtles, though that’s old news. One of the report’s authors, Dr. Larry K. Pickering, sounded that alarm a year ago. And it seems the smaller the turtle, the more likely it is to carry disease, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report in July 2007.

The risks can range from pneumonia from parrots — Polly needs a nebulizer? — to salmonella from reptiles, chicks and ducklings, Pickering told the trade journal Skin and Allergy News in April.

Wish I’d seen that article then. I would have had a response better than “because I say so” last week when the guys started begging for a bird after they says a kid walking to school with one in a cage.

You probably don’t have to imitate Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets” at full-fledged zoos, but other places can be problematic, Pickering warned in April.

“Petting zoos can be a problem, as can animal swap meets where children can handle animals and there are no hand-washing facilities on site,” said Pickering, an expert in infectious diseases among children.

Pickering told Reuters today that pediatricians know about pet hazards, but only 5 percent regularly educate parents and children about the dangers. A nice thought, but maybe not do-able. Our pediatrician has to talk at auctioneer speed just to get through what she already has to get through. Warning signs in pet stores would be more practical solutions, but I don’t see that happening.

Strangely enough, Little Guy might be able to handle an “exotic pet.” It’s Big Guy and his world-class oral fixation I’d worry about. I should never have taken away that pacifier so soon. I’d buy Trident by the truckload if I thought it would keep his hands out of his mouth.

So for now, at least, no birds, rats or creepy-crawlies for the guys.

I love it when science supports my phobias.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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