Giving live animals as Easter gifts is an age-old tradition, but this practice raises serious concerns among public health officials and animal rights advocates. Despite repeated warnings about the risks associated with this practice, hundreds of illnesses and even deaths, both human and animal, continue to occur each year.

From Salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry to animal abandonment, the pitfalls of gifting bunnies, chicks, and ducklings remain prevalent. As Easter approaches, experts urge the public to opt for alternative gifts like candy and toys to avoid both health risks and animal welfare issues.

In 2023, the CDC and public health officials across several states investigated multiple outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with backyard poultry. As of Oct. 19, 2023, the investigations concluded with a total of 1,072 reported cases across 48 states and Puerto Rico, resulting in 247 hospitalizations but no reported deaths. The data collected revealed that contact with backyard poultry was a common factor among those affected. Public health efforts have focused on educating the public about the risks associated with handling poultry and implementing measures to reduce Salmonella contamination in birds.

The risks of live animals extend beyond human health concerns to the welfare of the animals themselves. Humane societies and animal rights groups caution against purchasing live animals as Easter gifts due to the phenomenon of animal “dumping” when children lose interest in their pets. Domestic rabbits, for instance, are ill-equipped for survival in the wild and can disrupt ecosystems, spread diseases and fall prey to predators when abandoned.

When considering whether to continue the tradition of giving live Easter gifts, individuals must prioritize public health and animal welfare and refrain from this practice. For those that already have these pets, proper hand hygiene, age-appropriate handling of animals, and responsible pet ownership are essential to safeguard both human and animal well-being.

For more information on handling chicks safely watch the short video below.

About Salmonella infection
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. 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 developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning 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 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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