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Some Advice, Please RE: Turtles

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Posted by LadyG on September 10, 2001 at 16:10:01:

I have only just discovered you folks and I am faced with a situation that some of you might be able to help with. About 7 years ago I acquired my first box turtle in West Virginia. I called Fish and Game at the time and was told by the person answering the phone that no permitt was necessary. I had obtained a permit earlier when I had owned a uromastyx and my friend got permits for his ferrets, so we are used to doing things 'by the book'. In the following years I obtained 4 other turtles, all from out of state obviously, and never kept the bills of sale-- because I was certain I wouldn't need them. It has been some years since I got my last turtle, and all of these adults lived (until recently) in a large garden in the yard, with 2 pools of water, shade, herbs and fruit to supplement their diet of worms, insects, wet canned food, chopped meat, etc. Lots of hidey-holes, tunnels, rocks and logs to climb on. They even graced me with a few clutches, so I believe they were happy with their environment.They also hibernate every year. Now I have been told by a reptile rehabber that I cannot obtain a permit and prove their origins, and in fact 'may already be on the list for a raid by Fish and Game'. I was naturally very shaken up, as I had called this person on advice from a third party. As a favor he said he would call fish and game to make sure I wouldn't be 'hit' until he could pick up the turtles himself (out of state, can't be released, so they go to educational programs through him.) He was waiting until the end of the month when this years clutch would hatch. (my juveniles are also not released except to other hobbyists)Also in question was an handicapped bird I had owned for 4 years.

FYI I had worked for veterinarians, and several exotic vets, over the last 23 years until 2 years ago. The Associated Humnane Society (Popcor Park Zoo) has given my name and number to people wanting to place iguanas, and I have done this for 5 years. I have 8 now and have stopped taking their referrals, due to limited space. All my iguanas are housed individually, and some are handicapped. Two were spayed for medical reasons. I do not consider myself an irresponsible pet owner, and don't care if I can never take another vacation as long as I live!

As it turns out Fish and Game had never even heard my turtles, until the gentleman called to inform them he would take possession of them. Consequently, when I called Fish and Game to find out about what I needed to do for a permitt, I was told I COULD get one, with a notarized letter containing the names of the shops or breeders. I was then put on hold, and when the woman came back on the line, she changed the story-- someone in the office was 'aware of the situation' with the rehabber, and if her supervisor okayed it, they would THEN mail me an application. Consequently, all my calls to the supervisor, and two other people there have gone unreturned. I was under the impression that these applications were available to anyone who asked for them. I don't have a printer and so cannot print one up on-line.

Yes, sorry, there's more. I was called last week by the rehabber with a request to come for the clutch as a teacher wanted to hatch the turtles in her classroom as an 'educational program'. I agreed, though I was still struggling with having to surrender my pets, but felt the juveniles might fare better under the mentioned conditions. However, some of the dialogue of this call I felt was unnecessarily cruel. These are my pets, but I didn't feel like the gentleman understood how anyone would have 'affection' for turtles. (mind you, they even come to my voice, and of course for food)I was told that I had better 'get used to the idea.' that he was taking them, and there was no way around it. I mentioned my boyfriend was looking for property in Pennsylvania, and the response was a laugh. 'You'd move to Pennsylvanian just to keep a turtle?? you'll never find a house and move in 2 weeks. But if you moved, you could take all your pets with you! It ain't gonna happen.' It made me upset, and angry when I got off the phone.

Fortunately for me I have several friends in Pennsylvania with property. I moved my turtles to Pennsylvania last week, so they could settle into a new location before they tuck in for winter. I did NOT want to move them, but at least felt they would be better off in the long run then housed in classroom aquariums. I have also moved the bird, which I was informed would also be taken from me as soon as he obtained his avian license. I was given no other oprions. the bird is severely handicapped and requires special care. My life has been in upheaval, to say nothing of theirs, and I have been traveling alot lately to visit and maintain their housing.

Okay, this is the last bit, I promise. Tomorrow evening (Tuesday)this man and the school teacher are coming to my home to remove the clutch and inspect the pen, to make sure the turtles have been removed. He said he will inform Fish and Game that they are gone, but wants to inspect the inside of my premises also, otherwise he 'cannot give a full report'. I'm regretting my decision about the clutch, but since my request for a permit application was denied possibly on the basis of this individual's connection (he volunteers with F&G)(yeh I know they call it Fish and Wildlife now, but I'm an old-timer)I am afraid NOT to let him come and check out the house. I'm worried that unless I give permission for him to do so, they'll think I'm hiding something. A long big mess, I know, and I feel like I should have never tried to 'do the right thing'. Hey-- any of you folks want to come by and 'witness' the 'search'? Am I out of line asking him to sign a paper verifying he finds my residence clear, or that it is the only reason he is making the 'check'? I would still pursue obtaining a permit if I was sent the application, or wouldn't be unfairly denied. I could certainly sit down with my old issues of reptiles mag and find the names of the shops, etc.if that's what it takes. Mind you, other then being a poor housekeeper, I have nothing to hide. Some advice, please-- is there someone I can speak to at fish and game that would help? Or does NJHS have a representative there? I'm going this alone and any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

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