It is my
opinion and belief that the killing of pet turtles as required by endangered
species or state laws including turtles that were only temporary pets recently
taken from the wild is totally unconscionable. This includes turtles confiscated
by government authorities or turned over to animal shelters. These laws
have absolutely nothing to do with conservation or the preservation of
any species of turtles and have everything to do with the aggressive assertion
of authority over the general public. The persons given this absolute authority
by way of their employment are not elected representatives of the people
and have no active oversight. Most elected representatives want nothing
to do with representing pet owners. They are content to allow government
agencies to operate with no oversight.
have no rights or avenues to appeal the death sentences given their beloved
pets. Once pet turtles are confiscated, their owners are treated with contempt
as though they were criminals. They never know if their pets are killed
or given to others for experimentation or distribution. There are no companion
laws governing the disposition of confiscated turtles. And if a turtle
is incorrectly identified, too bad. The owner will not get it back.
I know first hand
that confiscated turtles are sometimes simply given to others. I brought
home six baby red-eared sliders from a herpetological society meeting.
The story given was that the babies were confiscated from a person illegally
selling them on the street. At the time the ban on selling turtles under
four inches in length was in force. However, red-eared sliders are not
native to Pennsylvania and may be legally sold. I can understand ordering
the person not to sell them anymore, but I do not know by what law they
were confiscated and simply given to others.
The tightening of
state laws like the new rules in Pennsylvania starting January 1, 2007
has sentenced countless turtles to death. There is no other legal option.
Once in captivity they may not be released.
I can hear the reaction
already. What government authority is killing pet turtles. I am not saying
that all agencies take possession of turtles and kill them. They do it
by prohibiting possession of the turtles and prohibiting release of the
turtles leaving the only legal action left being the legal killing of the
turtles. Other government agencies contribute directly to the killing of
turtles by not taking appropriate steps to protect them from being routinely
and predictably killed. This includes turtles classified as endangered
by the federal government like the Alabama red-bellied turtle.
I do not accept
any of the excuses used to justify such practices. The killing of a pet
box turtle does nothing to preserve the species. It is not a freak of nature
to be a pet and, heaven forbid, like it's owner. It is not going to go
out if released and recruit other box turtles to become pets or seek out
human companions. It has no political or cultural agenda. It is no threat
to humans or other animals except a few bugs and slugs.
But this is the
trend sweeping across the United States. Regulatory agencies at the federal
and state levels are mixing social agendas with what they pretend is conservation.
They intend to keep as many native species turtles and tortoises out of
the hands of the public as they possibly can. It does not matter if a species
is very abundant and in no threat of extinction. But once a species is
placed on any of the endangered species lists, it is almost doomed to a
slow diminishing trend. And some agencies are putting as many species as
they can on their lists.
One trick agencies
like the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission use is to have a category
like "species of concern". The excuses used to place a turtle on such a
list are very suspicious. One popular excuse is to say they do not know
enough about the distribution and abundance of the species and they are
"concerned" that the species may be in decline. Therefore, the public should
not possess any of these turtles until they learn more. And they get away
with it because they are in absolute control. No turtle has ever been downgraded
once on an endangered species list.
The excuses used
or sited are outrageous and demonstrate contempt for the public. One of
these excuses often sited is the inability of turtles released into wild
environments to adapt and survive. If this were so, turtles would not be
popular pets. They would not be able to adapt to captivity and survive
let alone thrive. The fact that turtles can live in captivity is proof
that they can adapt to new environments and, if released, new locations
in the wild.
On the other hand
these same authorities discourage the keeping of pet turtles because they
may become a nuisance species if they end up in a natural environment where
they do not exist as native species. And what makes them nuisances; they
adapt, survive, and thrive within a political border they have no concept
of. Isn't that the complete opposite of not being able to adapt to new
places. Isn't that called having it both ways. Isn't that both sides of
the same argument.
This also makes
it illegal for turtles to cross state lines on their own because they will
be considered nuisance species if they do. They have no means of applying
for legal residency. They will be illegal aliens without any protections
afforded them. If this sounds far fetched to you, read some of the state
laws pertaining to turtles.
excuse for killing captive turtles rather than releasing them is that they
may introduce diseases into wild populations. There is an unproved belief
that a die off of wild tortoises is the result of a disease contracted
from released tortoises. Maybe. Maybe captive tortoises contracted the
same disease from wild tortoises. Endangered or otherwise threatened
species turtles can be quarantined, examined, and treated as necessary
before being released. There is never a good reason to kill these animals.
The one health condition a turtle can not recover from is death!
I know many people
who have good intentions who read and repeat such false propaganda. I know
many more people have good intentions who believe they know what turtles
really want and what is good for them. They somehow come to the position
that keeping turtles out of the hands of humans preserves and protects
wild species of turtles and makes turtles happier. How can these do-gooders
know more about what is good for pet turtles than the people who love and
care for them.
excuse is to site the low reproductive rates of turtles and to explain
how the taking of just one turtle from a wild population dooms the whole
population. Turtles actually reproduce (lay eggs) in generous numbers only
to be preyed upon directly and their eggs eaten. Turtles have much better
odds of thriving in protective captivity. Many pet turtles begin life in
captivity and never know anything else. But even captive bred turtles are
not safe from the executioners of government authorities who make no distinction.
They are afraid that the captive bred turtle is the offspring of wild caught
turtles. These turtles are doomed because of their species (sounds much
like racism to me).
I do believe that
wild turtles can be over collected. But this is always an excuse that does
not equate to the bans on captive breeding of turtles and bans on collecting
very abundant species for personal pets. Oh but the authorities do not
want to allow the over collecting of wild turtles for breeding stock and
they want to keep abundant species abundant. The conclusions are always
the same. The authorities can not prove where any turtle comes from so
their self serving conclusion is always that no one should have them.
I believe there
are enough pet turtles who could breed and produce enough offspring to
fill the needs of all future demand for pet turtles. There are also many
turtles who outlive the desire or ability of their owners to keep them.
These turtles can readily adapt to new homes. Just look at the Adoptions
page here on TurtleTails.com to see what we are doing to help. Yes
there are species currently protected by the endangered species laws that
people would love to have. That subject will be covered in another opinion.
And do you know
that the farm breeding of turtles in the United States is a very big and
successful industry. MILLIONs of turtles are bred every year and shipped
all around the world. Not hundreds, not thousands, not hundreds of thousands.
Millions! I believe all species of turtles can be farm raised in sufficient
numbers to be considered abundant and in no need of protection by the endangered
We must also recognize
that many people who encounter turtles especially baby turtles pick them
up and take them home. Some do it to make pets out of them or out of fascination.
Some do it to protect them from harm. None do it to subject the turtles
to death sentences. No laws will stop people unaware of the laws from picking
up turtles. I know; I get email from some of these people everyday even
There are many no-kill
shelters for dogs, cats, and other unwanted animals. A no-kill trend is
spreading across the country. No-kill shelters often include the use of
foster homes for various reasons. The health needs of these animals are
satisfied. The concept of no-kill shelters includes finding homes for as
many adoptable animals as possible and reducing the over population of
It is time for government
agencies who prohibit people from keeping their pet turtles and tortoises
to provide no-kill shelters. If they are really out to preserve a species
from extinction, they must preserve each animal of that species. If they
are going to block release of pet turtles and tortoises, they should provide
no-kill shelters or sufficient means for no-kill shelters and foster care
to exist. I can not imagine any turtle or tortoise lacking a shelter or
foster care to go to. If they are truly specimens of endangered or threatened
species, they should be rehabilitated and returned to the wild not killed.
And while they are in shelters and foster care, they should be given every
opportunity to reproduce. How can anyone believe that killing animals preserves
their species from extinction.
In conclusion let
me repeat my opinion. I believe that requirements to kill pet turtles or
other turtles temporarily held in captivity is unconscionable. The laws
should be revised immediately to prevent the killing of turtles considered
endangered, threatened, or otherwise at risk including all confiscated
turtles and tortoises. No-kill shelters should be provided for all confiscated
turtles and tortoises. All laws providing authority to confiscate turtles
should include detailed provisions for the no-kill disposition of those
animals. No-kill is conservation; killing is destructive.
Thomas R. Schucker