Dealer of Wild Baby Turtles Pleads Guilty Following PETA Sting

Court Shuts Down Joseph Muninger’s Illegal Operation That Bred and Sold Baby Turtles, Put Public at Risk of Contracting Salmonella

For Immediate Release:
January 29, 2018

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

Newport News, Va.

Newport News resident and turtle breeder Joseph Muninger pleaded guilty to a Class 1 misdemeanor today for offering wild animals for sale and was ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and pay court costs. The sentence is the culmination of a state investigation into Muninger’s activities that was launched after PETA alerted authorities that he had used an incubator to hatch red-eared sliders—a small breed of turtle known to carry potentially deadly salmonella, which is easily transmitted to people—and was keeping them in tanks to sell them, which is illegal. Muninger admitted that the newly hatched turtles were “terrified” and “scared to death” of being handled outside the aquarium.

“Life in a tank is no life at all for turtles, who should bask in the sun and forage for berries in their native habitat,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA reminds everyone that turtles and other exotic animals suffer greatly in captivity and should be left where they belong: in the wild.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—notes that turtles have specific needs that can’t truly be met in captivity: In the wild, red-eared sliders can live up to 40 years and are known to roam, sunbathe, and forage for their food, but in captivity, they often live for just a few months. Muninger acknowledged that people grow “bored” with turtles, and he falsely stated that “if you left them in a dark room with no water [for a few days], they would be okay.” He also recommended feeding them chicken, broccoli, minnows, and goldfish who’d been “smashed” to death in a plastic bag—and he admitted to charging more for the turtles “the closer they are to when they hatch,” because “people want them smaller.”

Last year, PETA provided information that led to the conviction of Newport News resident and animal breeder Corey Taylor, who was charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor for removing more than 300 young turtles and eggs from their nests and keeping them in his home to be sold.

Broadcast-quality footage from PETA’s investigation is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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