I can’t keep my turtle – now what?

I’m sorry you’ve found yourself unable to keep your terrapin-friend.

I hope I can provide some guidance when it comes to giving your Red Eared Slider turtle a new home.

water animal stones turtle
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Let’s do some turtle-triage first:

1. Why are you giving up your turtle?

Size – Many new turtle owners are blindsided just how large these turtles can get. Once these little guys start growing, you get to throw an expensive party where you get them their own bigger room and really cool lights.

Cost – This ‘Turtle Coming of Age Party’ can get pricey and not everyone is ready for it. The UV lights need to be changed out every six months and you will need a decent heater and filtration system.

There is a solution: contact your local terrapin shelter or rescue and explain your situation. There is a chance they can help you with your setup for a fraction of the cost. Places like Facebook marketplace have plenty of discounted hardware with most tanks selling for $1/Gallon.

Cleaning – Turtles are notoriously messy pets due to their inability to perform basic functions out of the water. If cleaning is the issue, maybe upgrading the filtration system would help alleviate some of the work.

Another option is to introduce tank-cleaning plants like moss balls that can keep the tank tidy between water changes. Still too messy? Totally understandable.

The kids have grown out of it – Turtles grow with you and may even outlive your children depending on the care received. I urge you to help your children see how neat it is to have your own mini-dinosaur and caring for them can be fun.

Risk of Bacteria – Turtles are not really “hands-on” pets. Proper hand washing is another essential for human-turtle relations. Turtles are carriers of a bacteria called Salmonella and this is harmful to humans. Our hands also carry bacteria that can put Turtles at risk if left unwashed.

At the end of the day, some people want snuggly pets and that’s ok too. đź’š


water animals green reptile
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


2. Know what NOT to do

Do not eat your turtle – Red Eared Sliders are considered invasive to the point where some people enjoy a hearty turtle stew. I am not here to judge, but please don’t eat your pet.

Do not ‘sell’ your turtle for free – Scammers will acquire free turtles that come with a tank and let them die only to resell the hardware. Putting a price on the turtle and double checking the buyer will help your turtle friend find a new home.

Do not release your turtle – This is the strongest point in this list. Red Eared Sliders are over-performing bullies to native turtle species and it has been a worsening issue for decades. Due to the voracity of the sliders, they are decimating local flora and fauna to extinction.

So please, do not release your pet turtle in to the wild.

Do not leave your turtle to fend for itself – Irresponsible turtle owners have been seen leaving their turtle by the side of the road in a bucket or shallow tank. This is a sad fate for the animal if it is not rescued from the decisions of these individuals.

3. Contact local rescues

Toronto is fortunate enough to have a dedicated Red Eared Slider Foundation called LittleRESQ.

There are other foundations and charities worldwide who are dedicated to improving the lives of abandoned turtles while also reducing their negative impact on the environment if released. Surrendering the turtle allows them to have a chance at having a forever home.


4. Contact local enthusiasts

So, you contacted the rescue shelters and they’re not available for whatever reason. What are you going to do?

Use the power of social media and contact turtle enthusiasts!

You can use hashtags or even ask the rescues if they can boost your signal on their social media.

Another option is to ask your local vet if they have a notice board for adoptions. Sometimes they will be physical boards and others will be Facebook groups.

5. List for sale online/in person

If nothing else works out, list your turtle for sale on all the usuals (Craigslist, Kijiji, etc) but remember that there are other places to put your flyers:

  • Library Notice Boards
  • Bus Stops
  • Local CafĂ© Boards
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Turtle Enthusiast Groups (Facebook)
  • Local Pet Stores

If you still have your turtle after all that, try looking for someone to do a long-term foster.

You may be unable to have a pet for the next year but after that, maybe you and your turtle friend can meet back up.

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