This image released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Megan Fox, as April O’Neil, Raphael, and Donatello in a scene
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Megan Fox, as April O'Neil, Raphael, and Donatello in a scene from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." ((AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic))

Cowabunga!

Bay Area humane society leaders say they fear the box office-shredding "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie will trigger a pet turtle frenzy that could potentially threaten the species' health.

The blockbuster released Friday netted $25.6 million on its opening day, according to the website Box Office Mojo.

East Bay SPCA staffers worry the film's popularity could cause a spike in turtle sales from parents prodded by kids who want to adopt their own "heroes in a half-shell."

In turn, local animal shelters are urging the public to resist acquiring the reptilian pets on impulse.

Instead, they're asking parents to buy toy action figures in lieu of live turtles for their children.

"The film may inspire families to doom real turtles and tortoises to unsuitable, unsafe futures with ill-prepared adoptive families," said East Bay SPCA Communications Director Rita Wilds. "The spike hasn't started yet, but it's common when these types of movies come out -- for example, with '101 Dalmatians' -- that they tend to get people excited about bringing the animals into the home and don't realize the responsibility."

Owning a pet takes planning, equipment, food and commitment, said East Bay SPCA President Allison Lindquist.

"Sadly, many people do little research before acquiring a pet and don't understand and commit to the responsibilities of lifetime ownership," Lindquist said. "We fear this movie will drive interest in acquiring pet turtles and tortoises."


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Zoey Thoel, manager at Andy's Pet Shop, said the San Jose-based business recently had seven turtles but adopted them out in less than six weeks.

As of Saturday, the pet shop did not have any turtles or tortoises available, but Thoel said they anticipate selling more soon.

"People put them in their backyards often," said Thoel, who said she owns a tortoise that she keeps in her backyard.