(This is also one of those stories about how I need to stop bringing shit home)
I get at least one call a week at work asking if we sell ‘those little turtles’ (this week so far I’ve had three), and at least one call from someone wanting to get rid of one of the same, grown up.As far as selling turtles goes…
We don’t. For good reason.
There is no such thing as ‘those little turtles’. The SMALLEST pet turtle species out there is STILL probably quite a bit larger than what these people are expecting, and most of those species are hard to find and expensive to boot. What they are looking for (or THINK they are looking for), are baby red-eared sliders or painted turtles, the little toonie-sized ones.
Full grown, those things get to be size of a dinner plate. I tell this to every person wanting one, right along with the ‘no we don’t sell those’ speech. 99% of those people are SHOCKED BY THIS INFORMATION.
I’ve talked dozens of people out of buying turtles simply by showing them what a turtle needs and how much it will cost.
Last time the carnival was in town we had three people came in with tiny turtles in CUPS they barely fit in, looking for food and ‘turtle bowls’. Of those, one had only ‘won’ the turtle to save it and knew what they’d signed up for. Of the other two – one of them promptly asked us if WE wanted it because it suddenly wasn’t fun anymore, and the third bought the cheapest tank they could get away with, alternating curses with the shell-shocked expression of one who discovers their bear-skin rug, is instead, a living bear.
Turtles are marketed as cheap, small pets you can keep in two inches of water and all they need is food. THAT IS SUCH A FUCKING SHAM. At the VERY least, turtles need enough water to fully submerge, enough land to get completely dry, UVB lights (which are expensive and must be changed every six months) AND a heat source (preferably a basking bulb). MINIMUM.
I hear the most misinformed and/or lazy shit.
Can’t I just put his bowl by the window so he gets sun instead of getting a UVB? NO, window glass blocks most, if not all uvb rays, and the plastic or glass of his enclosure is going to block even more.
But my house is warm! YEAH, TO YOU, Not to a reptile! If your living room is equivalent to sitting in the full sun on a hot summer day, then you might be able to make do. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.
How do I top him from being so messy! Maybe don’t keep in a tank that’s way too small? Or, y’know, actually fucking clean it.
And my favorite: How do I stop it from growing too big? Have you considered buying a fake turtle to put in your torture chamber instead? That seems more your speed.
(I am mean)
(But I am also very annoyed about the systemic neglect that turtles suffer in the pet trade)
Now, this neglect would be bad enough on its own, but I live in Canada. Red eared sliders are not native to Canada. But when people find no one wants their giant turtle, said giant turtle is TONS of work to clean and house and feed and they can’t find any rescues that aren’t full, they LET THEM FUCKING GO.
It’s gotten to he point that some local environmental management agencies have started treating sliders like Canadian species, because there is no way we’re getting rid of them; they’re incredibly invasive, and they out-compete out native turtles for resources, causing population declines in all other species that occupy similar niches in the ecosystem.
When I was really young, we had a red-eared slider. And we were one of the shitty families that let him go in the local pond after having him for many years (I never remember him as being small, I’m not sure if we got him as an adult or if he was older than I was). That is still one of my most wince-worthy fails, although I was much too young to have known any better.
Long story short, turtles are not easy pets to keep. They require very specialized care, that care is EXPENSIVE, they get large, can live 40 years or more and require a LOT of upkeep and maintenance as well as large habitats.
They’re also poor pets for children as they are one of the animals most likely to carry salmonella, especially if they are kept in a tank that is dirty (which it is, if it is too small).
They’re really neat animals, but they are not a pet most people can handle! I’m amazed by the amount of people who don’t do their research. I always tell people to go adopt an adult turtle from a rescue if they want one so bad, then when they hem and haw over it being too big, tell them to maybe reconsider getting a turtle at all. Maybe try a pet rock first. Or fish.
Fish need more work than people think they do too (I have five tanks and spend half a day every week just doing maintenance on them. Not once a month, ‘when they’re dirty’ or ‘when I feel like it’, EVERY. FUCKING. WEEK.)
If someone can’t handle a fish tank, they have no business even considering a turtle.
As a side note, I now have a turtle. I don’t want a turtle.
However, I don’t think I can call myself an animal advocate if I don’t help an animal that I CAN possibly help.
These two girls came into the store today, with this slider in a TINY container (it could barely sit flat on the bottom it was so small), in about an inch of FILTHY water (like, it was so nasty I could only see the parts of the turtle that were above water), wanting to ‘donate’ it to us like they were doing us a favor.
(fucking people. Last adopt-a-thon weekend I had someone call because they wanted to ‘donate’ their dog for the event. No. just no. go find a shelter.)
The story came out that they were moving THE NEXT DAY and weren’t taking the turtle, so it had to be gone that day. She’d got it for her birthday (THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T GIVE PETS AS SURPRISE PRESENTS PEOPLE FUCK). Now, my coworker suggested a couple rescues, but they are all far away and we didn’t know if they were open Saturdays, and I was afraid of what would happen to this thing if they drove up there and the rescue was closed, so I offered to take it and bring it up there myself (since I’m going to my cottage in a few weeks and we drive right by it).
So the turtle (after a water change because EW) got to spend the rest of the day hanging out on the manager’s desk in the office until I went home.
Once I got a proper look at her and did some more quick research (my turtle knowledge is mostly on how to take care of them, set-up wise, I’m not an expert) and I wish I’d berated those girls more than I did, since although the turtle had been given to her unasked-for, which wasn’t her fault, the poor thing couldn’t have been cared for properly.
She’s got some shell abnormalities and a grey cast to her skin, both of which suggest a bad diet (notably too much protein and overfeeding resulting in unhealthily rapid growth), and she’s got shell rot, although until I dry her off and clean her shell tomorrow I’m can’t be sure how bad it is. And this is an animal that her previous owners had obviously thought was entirely healthy!
I just have so many questions I was too frustrated at the girls to ask – did she even have a light? Or a basking spot? Why didn’t you research hat you SHOULD have been feeding her? Why did you leave it until the LAST DAY to find a home for her if you ‘care so much’?
Goddamnit, I don’t even really like turtles and I sure as hell don’t want one. I hope the rescue will be able to take her from me sooner rather than later, I really don’t want to be stuck with her, and the setup I cobbled together for her is VERY temporary.
Tldr; took in a turtle some people tried to dump at my work, will hopefully get her to a rescue soon, am annoyed because people buy turtles without realizing they are a lot of work, expensive and live for a really fucking long time.
If she had a name they didn’t tell me what it was, so I’ve named her Fiona.
Edit: I’ve made an update photopost about Fiona, its HERE