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Can I Rehome or Surrender My Turtle? Expert Advice & FAQs

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Tiny pet turtle in owner's hands

Perhaps you have been taking care of a pet turtle that you feel needs a new home. Maybe you’re finding it too inconvenient to care for the turtle, someone is allergic to them, or your lifestyle circumstances have changed in a way that makes it impossible to remain a turtle owner. Whatever the reason, you are likely wondering whether you can rehome or surrender the turtle so they can go on to live a happy and healthy life. Yes, it is possible to rehome or surrender a turtle to an organization that will rehome them for you. The following information should help ensure that you know all your options before making a final decision about what to do with your pet turtle.

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Why You Should Never Release Your Pet Turtle Into the Wild

There are a variety of reasons that you should not consider releasing your turtle into the wild. First, domesticated turtles are not prepared to forage off the land, especially in places that would not be part of their natural habitat. Second, leaving your turtle in the wild would make them highly susceptible to predators like stray dogs. Finally, your turtle can introduce bacteria into the wild that infects other wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole. The turtle may also succumb to new ailments that they’re exposed to in the wild.

Surrendering Your Pet Turtle

Pet turtle in a man's hands
Image By: Ivan Smuk, Shutterstock

Rescue organizations and sanctuaries work hard to take in unwanted turtles and those that lose their homes due to inescapable circumstances. Unfortunately, there tend to be more turtles coming in than many of these organizations can manage, so some rescue centers and sanctuaries do not always accept new animals into their care. With this in mind, you may have to contact multiple organizations. Here are a few organizations that may be able to help you:

  • Tortoise Run FarmThis organization is dedicated to taking in and caring for neglected, unwanted, and abandoned box turtles and tortoises.
  • American Tortoise RescueThis website offers a comprehensive list of turtle rescue centers throughout the United States.
  • Mid-Atlantic Turtle & Tortoise SocietyThis society manages a surrender and adoption program that matches unwanted turtles with rescue centers and adopters in all U.S. states.
  • Herp Societies and RescuesMelissa Kaplan maintains a large list of turtle rescue centers in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world.

You can also check with your local humane society and animal shelters to find out if they can accept the turtle that you want or need to surrender. If they cannot, they might have local leads for you to look into.

Rehoming Your Pet Turtle

If you don’t want to contribute to overwhelming the rescue organizations, you may be able to rehome your pet turtle with a new loving family, where they will be happy and healthy for the rest of their long life. That said, it’s crucial to do your due diligence when rehoming your turtle to ensure that their new accommodations will be satisfactory and to minimize the risk that neglect and/or abuse will become a part of the turtle’s life experience.

It’s always a good idea to visit the home of anyone whom you are considering rehoming your turtle with and to inspect the habitat that the turtle will be living in. Spend time getting to know the new prospective owners to find out their reason for wanting to care for your turtle. Make sure there are no other pets in the household that could pose a threat to them.

Also, consider charging a rehoming fee, thus attracting only those who have the financial means to spend on a turtle. There are a few ways to find people who might be willing or even eager to take on your pet turtle:

  • Advertise at the Humane Society — Most humane societies have community boards in their facilities where people can post advertisements. You could post a flyer that invites interested caretakers to consider adopting your turtle.
  • Talk to Friends and Family Members — While you may not know anyone in your immediate circle that is able or willing to take on a new pet turtle, one or more of your friends, family members, and colleagues might know someone who would consider doing so. Kids might even know someone at school who is looking for a turtle to keep as a pet.
  • Utilize Social Media — It’s easy to get the word out about your turtle’s need for a new home with the help of social media. A post or two on Facebook and/or Twitter can help draw attention to your cause and hopefully attract a few people who are interested in helping you out.

Things You Can Do to Avoid the Need for Rehoming or Surrendering

close up of male painted river terrapin turtle
Image By: Danny Ye, Shutterstock

Depending on your situation, you may be able to do things to avoid the need for rehoming or surrendering your pet turtle. For instance, if keeping your turtle’s habitat clean is too time consuming or physically demanding, you can get a better filter or a Python siphon system. This will make keeping your turtle’s tank clean much easier. Here are other things to consider:

  • Can’t Afford a Bigger Glass Tank? Consider upgrading to a plastic stock tank or making your own new habitat out of things like old bookcases or door panels. This can save you money and help keep caring for your turtle within your budget.
  • Can’t Keep Up with Indoor Turtle Maintenance? Consider creating an enclosed (fenced) enclosure for your turtle in the yard. This can make care and habitat maintenance much less expensive or time-consuming.
  • Can’t Afford Food and/or Supplies? Look to your local animal shelters and rescue centers for assistance. Many are able and willing to provide these things for a fraction of the going rates in stores, if not for free.

A Quick Recap

Turtles are cool pets, but sometimes it isn’t possible to keep a pet no matter how much we might want to do so. Fortunately, there are great rescue organizations out there that can help ensure that your turtle has a happy and healthy life if you must surrender them. There are also a few ways that you can go about rehoming your turtle to a new family. Moreover, you may find that these tips for avoiding surrender can help you keep your beloved pet for years to come.

Featured Image Credit: Ivan Smuk, Shutterstock

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