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Those who already have these pets should contact their veterinarians about specific risks and possible new homes for the animals, he said.
Data cited in the study indicate that about 4 million U.S. households have pet reptiles. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all kinds of exotic pets are on the rise, although generally fewer than 2 percent of households own them.
The veterinarian group's Mike Dutton, a Weare, N.H., exotic animal specialist, said the recommendations send an important message to parents who sometimes buy exotic pets on an impulse, "then they ask questions, sometimes many months later."
But a spokesman for the International Hedgehog Association said there's no reason to single out hedgehogs or other exotic pets.
"Our recommendation is that no animal should be a pet for kids 5 and under," said Z.G. Standing Bear. He runs a rescue operation near Pikes Peak, Colo., for abandoned hedgehogs, which became fad pets about 10 years ago.
On the Net:
American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/
American Veterinary Medical Association: http://www.avma.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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