Public warned of illegal turtle, bunny sales in LA


"We're trying not only to attack this problem from the seller's side by arresting and citing those sellers, but now we're trying to raise awareness from the buyer's side," said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.

The enforcement is part of a strategy to fight animal cruelty.

"They (rabbits) do have to nurse from their mother, and they're taken from their mother way too young, they don't get the proper milk that they need from their mother, they end up getting sick and dying a very slow, horrible death," said Annette Ramirez with Los Angeles Animal Services.

Police are handing out flyers informing people of the law. There are also new signs posted in the area. Officials say animals that appear so cute can sometimes cause health problems to humans.

"The main one is salmonella, which can be carried by any type of reptile and especially we see it here with the turtles," said Ramirez.

Back in 2010, Eyewitness News went along with police and animal activists and found animal vendors selling bunnies, birds and baby turtles. Eyewitness News set out again Thursday to find vendors selling animals in Chinatown and found baby turtles for sale. One store owner said she didn't know if selling the turtles was illegal. When Eyewitness News returned to that store later, the turtles were gone.

Officials say sellers often hide animals when they see enforcement officers coming by. The fines for buying and selling are steep. According to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, fines start at $250, then go up to $500 and finally $1,000 before becoming a misdemeanor.

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