A RESCUE FACILITY FOR TORTOISES AND BOX TURTLES
Tortoises and box turtles can outlive their keeper’s ability to care for them. Central Texas Tortoise Rescue’s mission is to adequately house, care for, rescue and rehabilitate land turtles who need a helping hand, and to place them into loving forever homes.
CTTR has chosen not to participate in Giving Tuesday in 2020. There are too many people and organizations out there who have been even more impacted by COVID-19 than we have, and it doesn’t feel right to detract from that effort or to ask for support from individuals who may themselves be experiencing financial hardships after this crapshow of a year. We are just being extra careful with our resources this year, and we’re planning on applying for some grants to help cover our expenses. If you’re moved to contribute even without a fundraising campaign, we can always use pumpkins, spineless cactus, or hay, or you can check out the links on the right hand sidebar.
How do I adopt a tortoise?
- Naturalistic outdoor enclosure
- Hide spaces
- Water source
- Edible plants
- Appropriate fence or barrier
- Heated winter accommodations for some species (sulcata, red-footed tortoise, leopard tortoise, etc. Do your research on the species you are interested in)
- Commitment to long-term care (with proper care, this animal will outlive you. Who will care for it next?)
- Agreement with our no-breeding policy
Seriously, READ THIS. You really can’t afford not to. Here’s an adoption form to fill out, we always need great homes standing by ready to care for these beauties!Who is available for adoption right now? Head over to our ADOPTION PAGE and find out!
I found a turtle. Now what do I do?
A native species is one that occurs naturally in a particular ecosystem, and was not introduced by humans; in other words, a native species is one that belongs there. Texas has several different species of native water turtles, two species of box turtles, and one species of tortoise. In almost all cases, we strongly encourage you to enjoy the animal in the environment, but to #leavewildthingswild. Central Texas Tortoise Rescue does not have a current rehab license and does not accept surrendered wildlife, we only accept companion animals (pets).
Is this someone’s pet?
Box turtles and Texas tortoises are curious and will approach humans to investigate. This is not a sign that the animal was a pet, and it’s highly likely that it doesn’t need “rescuing.” Most often if you find a box turtle or a Texas tortoise out and about, it is simply going about its day and seeking shelter, food, or a mate. If you find a box turtle or Texas tortoise that is badly deformed or has paint on it, then it could be a pet that has escaped or was “let go.” In these cases, the animal can be taken to a rescue or rehabber, but should otherwise be left alone.
What if it’s crossing the road?
If the animal is found crossing the road, only help if it is safe for you to do so. If it is safe, you can help it across by putting it on the side of the road that it was heading toward. Don’t put it on the side that it was coming from, or it will just turn back around and continue trying to cross the road.
What if I find a turtle or tortoise that has been hit by a car?
Some rehabbers have experience in animal medicine and can perform basic patch jobs and administer antibiotics. If you can’t find a rehabber near you who can accept the injured animal, some veterinarians will accept surrendered wildlife that is injured.
Can I adopt more than one tortoise?
We do not permit adoptions of male Russian or Sulcata tortoises into homes that already have one of that species. These tortoises are mostly solitary in the wild, and pet tortoises do not require a friend. CTTR has become very familiar with the most likely outcomes of adding a male tortoise to a home that already has a tortoise.
1. A second male is introduced, and they will be aggressive and fight with one another, which has three possible outcomes:
a) they’ll hurt and possibly kill one another
b) you’ll have to divide your yard in half so each will only have half as much space as they need, which is not fair, or
c) you end up getting rid of one because males almost never co-exist peacefully.
2. A female is introduced, and the male pursues her constantly (he will). This is stressful for the female, will lower her immune system, and damage her cloaca because the males are relentless. Don’t believe me? Read this.
There are exceptions to every rule. Two females are fine. Situations where the keeper can provide adequate space and housing for both males in completely separate enclosures are fine. Experienced keepers with lots of acreage and the space and means to separate aggressive males are fine. This is our stance. I’m sure we’ll get lots of comments about how “I’ve had my boys together for years with no issues” and that’s really great! I’m so glad that it can work out for some people; however, this is not a situation that we are comfortable putting an animal in, and since our priority is the care and well being of the animals that are entrusted to us, we are not planning on compromising.
How did you get started?
This all started with a Russian tortoise named Trogdor, a box turtle named Stuart, and a sulcata named Thor. Sometime in the late 2000s while visiting a pet store on a date with my husband, I became rather enchanted with a Russian tortoise that the store had for sale. The employee I spoke with couldn’t tell me anything about the animal; I wanted to know if it was wild caught or captive bred, and about how old it was. He didn’t know, but laughed at me – actually laughed! – when I said I wanted to know if I was looking at a 5 year old tortoise or a 50 year old tortoise. Apparently that was a funny question, but to this day I’m not sure why.
Fast forward a few days and my sweet husband presents me with a gift. You guessed it: the Russian tortoise from the pet store. We named him Trogdor, and kept him until we learned just how magnificent of escape artists Russian tortoises can be. Because we had one tortoise, friends recommended me as a “tortoise keeper” to an adventuresome woman who was leaving the country to travel to far away lands following her husband’s job, except she couldn’t take her three-toed box turtle, Stuart, with her. So Stuart came to live with me, and to this day I look forward to seeing her sweet curious face every single morning.
Circa 2012 I received a call from a friend and colleague who is a very experienced herpetologist and whom I’ve always held in high esteem (hi, Andy!). He said that a sulcata had been abandoned in a field, and could I care for it?
“What the heck am I supposed to do with a sulcata?”
The sulcata in question was none other than Thor, who really got the whole idea of rescue marinating for me. My friend quickly educated me about basic sulcata husbandry, and we had a long talk about how often these animals become neglected or abandoned because their keepers can’t care for them anymore. The zoos are overrun, and there’s just no place for them to go, so they are often dumped and left to fend for themselves. This presents a whole myriad of issues that are too long and complex to go into today, but suffice to say it’s not a good idea.
Life happened, we moved out into the country, built a fence for a garden, went through several different (and horribly ugly) iterations of enclosures for Stuart and Thor, and did a lot of thinking. And tinkering. And more thinking. And finally one day after work was over, the kids’ soccer practices were over, and everybody had been fed, I started fiddling around with blog sites and created a free little WordPress page called Central Texas Tortoise Rescue. And then I figured out how to create a Facebook page. And then people started contacting us.
It actually works. If you build it, they really will come. We couldn’t believe that a) people were able to find us in the vast world of the interwebs, and b) there was actually a legitimate need in the community that we could help serve in a very unique way. We were just your run-of-the-mill overworked soccer parents with full time jobs trying to hold it together and wondering how many more nights this week we would be eating macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. It had never occurred to us that we had anything special to offer, or that we could do something that really mattered.
This really matters.
In the very early days, we hadn’t done any fundraising yet and honestly didn’t even know how to begin, but were faced with a sick tortoise. Luckily, we had a few donations, but we quickly spent all of them on vet care for the sick animal. And then we spent several hundred dollars of our own money on vet care. Finally, any extra that we could squeeze out of our budget ran out and we made the very difficult decision that our family couldn’t support his care any longer. Right then and there, we decided that money should never be the reason we lose an animal, so we turned ourselves into a non-profit and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why do you charge adoption fees?
We performed mathematical exercise to figure out what our most basic minimum annual operating expenses are over the course of a year (vet bills, food, required maintenance) and divided that by the number of animals we can generally expect to rescue in a year. Keeping in mind that some animals will cost us 0 to maintain, some will cost thousands (sick tortoises are very, very expensive), our adoption fees cover the average cost it costs us to care for each animal. We don’t make money doing this, and we can’t cover any extra expenses with adoption fees (obviously we simply donate all of the electricity, water, time and labor, but it does cost money to build new enclosures and repair things), we rely on donations over and above adoption fees for that, but the adoption fees do allow us to keep our doors open and continue helping animals.
How do I surrender an animal?
We do NOT charge surrender fees, and recognize that this decision can’t have been easy. It is never easy giving up a family pet, and tortoises are no exception. We deeply sympathize with the circumstances that led you to this decision, and we are committed to providing the best possible care that we can for your animal until we can find a perfect forever home. Our goal with re-homing (adopting) is that we want any potential adopter has to be able to provide even better conditions than we can ourselves provide, ensuring your animal an outdoor environment in which it can thrive and live a long and happy life.
Can I come for a tour?
Of course! I would love to meet you, show you around, and introduce you to all of our rescues! Schedule a tour here.
Can I use the bathroom at your house?
We no longer allow people into our home to use the restroom (not even senior citizens or children…I’m sorry). There are gas stations within five to ten minutes either direction from our location, so please plan accordingly. Thank you for respecting our family’s privacy.
How long does it take to get the results of my adoption application?
You will receive an e-mail with an acceptance, denial, or follow-up questions within two to eight weeks of submitting your completed application. If habitat photos are not submitted from the same e-mail address that you used to submit the application, your application will not be reviewed because we will have no way to match your application with your photos. Photos submitted over Facebook or through text messages will not be considered for the application. Photos lacking proper authentication (something with your name on it, in the same frame as the picture) will not be considered for the application. If you “borrow” a habitat enclosure photo from the internet and submit it as your own, your application will be denied and you will be automatically blocked from applying to adopt from us in the future.
I live far away and can’t get there to pick up/drop off a tortoise or box turtle. Can you meet me?
We have a small network of volunteers who are sometimes available for transport, but there is never a guarantee that transport will be available. In many cases I am willing to meet at my office in south Austin during regular business hours (9-5, M-F), but otherwise you have to be able to make the trip to San Marcos during a time that is available on the calendar link you will be provided once your application is approved.
Will you keep my tortoise forever?
We cannot keep your animal for you. Our system is modeled after almost any other animal shelter, and we are not set up with large enough habitats to provide permanent homes for any other chelonians besides the few we are already committed to. We promise to provide the very best care for your animal that we can while it is here, and we promise to find it an even better forever home than what we would be able to provide. When considering a new home for any animal, we ask one simple question: “Is this person’s habitat better than the habitat we are currently able to provide for this animal here at CTTR?” Obviously the term better is quite subjective, and it could mean many things, such as a habitat of a larger size, more secure, fewer animals to share space with, higher quality (more plants, shelters, etc), etc. Our commitment is to never reduce an animal’s circumstances, and if the habitat in question doesn’t put the animal in a better situation than it is currently in, we don’t approve the application.
Follow up question: If I pay for all of the animal’s expenses and to have a new enclosure built, will you change your mind?
My heart breaks for how hard it is to let go of an animal, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for your situation and decision. I can do a pretty good job of taking care of the existing animals in the existing space that we have set aside for that, but I do not have more time/energy to commit to building or maintaining additional enclosures, and I’m not willing to make you a promise that I can’t keep, but I do promise to find your animal the best home possible.
What should my long term care plan for my tortoise be?
It is highly likely that your tortoise will outlive all of us, and it’s absolutely OK if your kids aren’t thrilled about the idea of inheriting it. I run a tortoise rescue, and my kids have zero interest in assuming care for these animals when I can’t any more. It’s important to have a frank conversation about this with your loved ones. If you’re a parent adopting a tortoise for your child, understand that when Child goes to college or moves into a condo without a yard, that will become your responsibility. If you’re an adult adopting a tortoise, talk to your kids and grandkids and see if they want it once you can no longer care for it. If they don’t, reach out to younger family members or friends, a local zoo, or an animal rescue, and make your wishes for the disposition of the animals known in your will.
Why do you require so much space?
It is our firm belief that even tortoises and box turtles that have been captive for generations deserve the chance to “feel like” they’re living in the wild. This means they have plenty of space to exercise and roam around, enough sunny places to bask and shady places to hide,, and enough space that their habitat is varied and they can choose different hiding places or types of forage. We want each enclosure to be planted with plenty of edible forage to encourage natural behaviors, and our favorite place to research that is The Tortoise Table. Further, CTTR’s commitment is to never reduce an animal’s circumstances, and if the habitat in question doesn’t put the animal in a better situation than it is currently in (i.e., larger habitat space), we’ll just keep it here until a better habitat comes along.
How do you choose adopters?
Once an adoption application and photos of the habitat are submitted, we ask one simple question: “Is this person’s habitat better than the habitat we are currently able to provide for this animal here at CTTR?” Obviously the term better is quite subjective, and it could mean many things, such as a habitat of a larger size, more secure, fewer animals to share space with, higher quality (more plants, shelters, etc), etc. Our commitment is to never reduce an animal’s circumstances, and if the habitat in question doesn’t put the animal in a better situation than it is currently in, we don’t approve the application. There are several instances when adopters apply for a specific animal but their habitat is actually better suited for a different animal. In those cases we reach out personally to discuss and to see if the adopter would be willing to open their space up to the alternative box turtle or tortoise instead of the one they applied for.