Suspended Jail Time Follows PETA Investigation of Joseph Muninger's Illegal Operation That Bred and Sold Baby Turtles
For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2018
Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382
Newport News, Va. – Former Newport News turtle breeder Joseph Muninger has been convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor for offering wild animals for sale and given a suspended jail sentence. In January, Muninger pleaded guilty to the charge and was ordered to pay $136 in court costs, which he failed to do. As a result, he’s now been given a 30-day sentence, suspended for one year.
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 transmissible to humans—was keeping them in tanks, and planned 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 be allowed to bask in the sun and forage for berries in their native habitat,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Muninger’s conviction is a win for animals, and PETA will continue to ensure that anyone who tries to make a buck by illegally selling wild animals will see their day in court.”
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 spend their time roaming, sunbathing, and foraging 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.”
In 2015, PETA provided information that led to the conviction of Newport News resident and animal breeder Corey Taylor of a Class 1 misdemeanor offense 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 PETA.org.