Turtles and Tortoises are the most popular of all reptilian pets, but first-time owners are often misled by the small size and irresistible cuteness common to hatchlings. Even after a lifetime of working with hundreds of species, I’m shocked by the growth rates exhibited by Red Eared Sliders, African Spurred Tortoises and other hardy turtles. Many keepers are not able to provide the space that these commonly-available species need. It’s also easy to underestimate the time and expense involved in meeting specific needs for diets, mineral supplementation, heat, ultraviolet radiation, vet care and so on. In this article, I’ll highlight some organizations that may be able to help those who cannot provide a 75 gallon tank for their adult Slider or a ½ acre yard for the Spurred Tortoise that ballooned to 80 pounds in 5 years…or who need to find homes for “less extreme” turtles. And those readers who wish to adopt turtles in need – often a better option than purchasing – will learn how to do so.
Note: Some of the most popular turtles and tortoises are actually among the worst pet-choices for most people…as illustrated by the millions of released Red Eared Sliders that now populate over 30 foreign countries (see photo of Sliders basking in a pond at the Ideal Pet Choices: Small Turtles and The Best “First Tortoise” before deciding on a new pet.. Please see
New York Turtle and Tortoise Society
I’m in touch with reptile interest groups from all over the world, but the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society (NYTTS) remains my favorite. My friends there are both knowledgeable and dedicated, and over the society’s long history have helped thousands of turtles and turtle-owners and supported many young turtle biologists and conservation projects. Their monthly talks and annual day-long seminars draw some of the world’s best known herpetologists as speakers. I was proud to have been asked to speak recently, although I suspect this was due more to the charms of my 6-year-old associate than any expertise on my part! (check the photos on the NYTTS website!).
In common with similar groups, NYTTS’s resources have been overwhelmed by armies of homeless Red Eared Sliders. Thousands have been placed, but the supply of local homes is now depleted. However, society members can assist with husbandry information and may be able to point you towards other options. They can sometimes accommodate other turtle species, and are always happy to hear from folks who wish to provide homes for turtles (especially Sliders, I imagine!). Please see the NYTTS Website and Facebook page for further information on adoptions.
(Photo above courtesy of Matthew Lu)
Social Tees Animal Rescue
Social Tees’ owner Robert Shapiro and I haunted the same NYC swamps, vacant lots, and pet stores as children, and were influenced by the same reptile-pioneers (most notably dear friend Aldo Passera, who owned a legendary Manhattan pet store, Fang and Claw). I don’t know anyone who devotes more of him or herself to animal welfare. Robert has also re-homed thousands of other reptiles, cats and dogs, along with some birds, spiders, fish…he does whatever it takes, and has an extensive network of placement contacts. If you wish to place or adopt an animal, or to help Social Tees in its important work, please check the website or call 212-614-9653.
CTTS is well-known for assisting the California Department of Fish and Game with the placement and conservation of the endangered Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Their success in re-homing a wide variety of other native and exotic species is also impressive, as you can see from their adoption statistics. CTTS takes great pains to assure that the turtles under their care are placed in appropriate homes, and generally only considers adopting to folks living within a region that is served by a CTTS chapter. They also provide excellent care info and other guidance.
I first met the kind folks at FFRS while participating in events held at ThatFishPlace-ThatPetPlace in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (if you have a chance to visit the store, do so – I’ve been to pet stores on several continents, but was overwhelmed by the selection and service here…no way to do it justice in this article!).
FFRS is run with a distinct personal touch – prospective owners are emailed when turtles or other reptiles become available – and each situation is given individual attention. The group also has an extensive network of contacts, and so may be able to assist even if you are not in the immediate area…and for a $20 donation you receive 4 excellent pocket field guides covering all of PA’s reptiles and amphibians!
Austin’s Turtle Page
I often post articles and participate in discussions on Austin’s Turtle Page. I urge you to check out this wonderful turtle care and natural history resource. The adoption forum lists a wide variety of turtles located throughout the USA.
Post Below for Other Contacts
I maintain contacts with numerous herp societies in the USA and other countries. Please post below if you need assistance in finding a home for your turtle or tortoise, or wish to help out by adopting one.