The red-eared slider was the "it" pet for generations of kids until tiny turtles were banned more than 30 years ago because they shed salmonella. Later this week, Congress will decide if these baby reptiles are ready for a comeback. The sale of turtles with shells smaller than 4 inches was banned in 1975 because the sweet-faced reptiles harbored a dirty little secret: They shed salmonella. Kids became infected with the dangerous germ after putting their turtle-tainted fingers — or the turtles themselves — in their mouths. Regulators figured by banning turtles smaller than 4 inches, they’d curb the pet’s popularity, and at least bigger shells wouldn’t be able to fit into kids’ mouths. Before the ban went into place in 1975, an estimated 100,000 cases of salmonella sickness occurred each year as the result of baby turtles and other pet reptiles, Sundlof says. Since the tiny-turtle prohibition, that number has gone down by about a quarter.