Kids with Pet Frogs and other Wildlife

Recently I’ve been meeting children at my Frogs Are Green table at various Jersey City events and this one young girl told me she had at home: fire-bellied toads, a lizard, fish, 2 dogs and her brother had turtles too.

Growing up my parents weren’t so keen on animals in the home and perhaps that’s why I love wildlife so much, watch nature programs, and have my own pets. Over the years I’ve had fish, turtles, and cats.

It got me thinking about all that variety from someone so young, and whether it’s a good idea for a child to be responsible for so many pets. In addition, I was quite surprised to hear she had frogs. At first I thought she was joking with me. But a few days later, I heard from another young boy that he also had fire-bellied-toads at home.

It’s not something I recommend because there are so many issues right now with frogs potentially carrying the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) disease and if those frogs were let go or escaped into an area unnatural to them, they would be helping spread the disease.

(To learn more about this, Save The Frogs has a great web page on this:

Chytrid Fungus in the Pet Trade

“As the trade of amphibians is highly unregulated, disease testing of amphibians traveling between countries and states is next to none. Many amphibians that travel often are carries of the chytrid fungus, which is greatly responsible for the amphibian declines around the world. Approximately 300 species have been detected with chytrid and it is now present in nearly 40 countries. In 2011, a study found that in many pet shops and pet expos nearly 3% of the captive amphibians tested positive for the presence of chytrid, and 13.6% of the collections yielded at least one positive result.” — from Save the Frogs

Frogs As Pets

I decided to look further into how common it is for kids to have pet frogs and found this informational web page: Your First Frog.”

It’s obvious from reading this page how complex taking care of a pet frog would be. Once you finish this page, I’m sure you’ll agree they belong in the wild.

Only those that are threatened with extinction and are being helped by scientists/herpetologists in captivity like the Golden Mantella, or those doing important research to help amphibians, should have them away from their natural habitats.

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Here are some thoughts on this topic from David Veljacic, nature and wildlife conservationist

When deciding to buy a child a pet there some questions to keep in mind.

Is my child responsible enough to care for a pet? Never buy children pets to teach them responsibility. 

Is this interest a fad?

What is my child looking for in a pet? Does Your child want a playmate or a piece of nature? 

Do I have the space?

Does my child have the time? With kids enrolled in so many activities they simply may not have the time to care for the animal properly. Ultimately, the parents have the responsibility to pick up the slack that the kids may leave.

Can we afford the upkeep? 

And, if looking at exotics – Is it captive bred? Only buy captive bred animals.

Once You have decided to let Your child have a pet, You need to educate Yourself on the needs of the animal You are buying. You may be called upon to care for the animal from time to time. It is also good, particularly with young kids, to check up on the pets to make sure things are going well, so You should know a little about it. 

I have seen it happen many times with people who keep exotics, particularly reptiles and amphibians, where it becomes an obsession to buy more and more species. There is always a new color morph or new species available, and it can be very tempting. I recommend not growing a collection too quickly, a child can become overwhelmed before they know it. 

Do Your research! NEVER include pet store workers opinions in Your research! Pet store workers are there to sell You things, then sell You more things. You need have the type of animal You plan on buying researched before heading to the pet store, or breeder, and the only questions left should be things like…

Is the animal captive bred?
Is the animal eating/pooping properly?
You should also be allowed to inspect the animal for obvious injuries.

Many exotics that in the past were sold as “disposable” live for years, even decades. If You cannot commit to a long lived animal, don’t buy one. Never release captive animals into the wild. 

3 thoughts on “Kids with Pet Frogs and other Wildlife

  1. If I may respectfully ask, how is the “My First Frog” page an argument for frogs being left in the wild?
    If anything, I think it convinced me that there really are people out there who know and care enough about frogs to keep them in an environment where they are stress-free and all their needs are being met, alleviating many of the doubts I initally had about keeping frogs as pets.

    I agree that the issue should still be up for debate and I am certainly no amphibian expert, but it doesn’t seem to me like an animal that is being kept in captivity with adequate space, food, companionship if needed, etc., especially one as (comparatively) simple as a frog, would care whether it is truly free or not.
    The way I see it, it may not be natural to keep pets, but if done the right way it’s not harmful either. Though they can live out their life cycle in a more natural manner in the wild, countless individuals of almost all animal species including frogs end up meeting an early and/or gruesome death there, so I don’t know if there’s really a clear-cut argument against pet-owning when it comes to welfare and longevity.

    It could be argued that some animal species or breeds are too intelligent or too fragile to thrive in captivity, and I would totally support more regulations to protect them – if it is determined that they indeed consistently suffer (mentally or physically) or die no matter how much humans have tried to give them good captive habitats, we should clearly leave them be. There are some species that we will never be able to fully and safely accomodate in captivity, so to keep trying would be cruel to the animals. However, I wouldn’t be too concerned for the common frog as the hardier breeds are reportedly very easy to raise if you know what you’re doing, and can do very well in an aquarium or terrarium if you provide them ample space, food and shelter.

    It does concern me that children would be responsible for any animals at all, especially young children as they very often are incapable of having enough empathy to view the animals as more than objects. If the parents make a point of supervising everything and the child is responsible in name only, I don’t necessarily see an issue as this could help the kid learn at the same time, but it is indeed extremely important that the animal is not left in the sole care of the child and that it is never mishandled.

    Of course, animals of all kinds (even domesticated ones) fall into older but still inexperienced hands at times, which can be just as hazardous. I think a lot of accidental mistreatments could be avoided if anyone who wishes to have a pet had to pass a standardized test about the species/breed that they want, to prove they have sufficient knowledge to welcome and raise it properly.

    In short, I feel like anyone who is fully informed about their preferred animal, provides it with everything it needs (of course, it has to be an animal for which it is possible to do so in captivity) and avoids anything that has been shown to harm or stress it unnecessarily could be a suitable caretaker for it, whether it’s typically considered wild or domesticated, which is why I’m not against keeping frogs as pets if they are of a breed that can be expected to survive well under human care, and if they are being bred responsibly and not taken out of their habitats in an excessive manner. Of course, they should always go to decent and able people who are well-informed!

    • Dear SQ,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I’m not suggesting that students in school or children at home shouldn’t have pets, but the issue is that frogs adopted from pet stores are usually not native to the local area. Once parents decide they’ve had enough because the child isn’t properly taking care of the animal, that’s when they most likely set it free where it doesn’t belong. They don’t bring it back to the pet store. This is the problem. I agree that many are responsible pet owners, but parents must think twice before giving children so much responsibility they may not be ready for.
      Susan

      • That does sound like it would be a big issue! Hopefully sites such as yours can help parents make good decisions to prevent any problems related to frogs and similar animals in the future – information is incredibly important in this respect.

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