Exchanging gerbils for reptiles as classroom pets only substitutes one problem for another, reports the Times Herald. Reptiles carry salmonella bacteria, which can spread to humans and cause serious illness.

Even indirect contact is dangerous because salmonella can live on countertops and other surfaces for days. Young children and people with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible.

The reptile trade is hazardous to human and animal health, in the Herald’s opinion. Reptiles have complex dietary and habitat needs that are difficult to meet. As much as 90% of wild-caught reptiles die in their first year of captivity because of physical trauma during capture and shipping or inadequate care afterward.

For public health and humane reasons, reptiles should not be pets, at home or in the classroom. While reptiles are fascinating to study, the Herald recommends to leave them in the wild.