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what to do with unwanted tortoises

Where Can I Take My Unwanted Tortoise?

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Samantha Harris

If you can’t care for a tortoise, this introduces difficult emotions like guilt and sadness.

You shouldn’t feel bad about needing to give up a pet. You can still do right by it if you take it to a place where it can live happily for the remainder of its life.

Getting rid of an unwanted tortoise must be done properly. Not everyone can care for a tortoise, and you can’t abandon it. This means you must take steps to legally give a tortoise a new home.

This may require time, patience, and fact-checking. Don’t be surprised if you must take care of the tortoise longer than intended. However, it’s always best to do things the right way.

What Do I Do with My Unwanted Tortoises?

You must rehome a tortoise if you can no longer meet its care needs. Depending on the tortoise’s size, this process can stretch over a few days or weeks.

Usually, larger tortoises are harder to rehome because fewer people have the space for them. Smaller tortoises are easier to give away, but finding someone who can care for one may still take time.

While you look for a new home, you’ll still need to care for it yourself.

This could involve giving up space in your home, buying items (like toys, food, and environmental devices) you weren’t planning to, and spending time out of your day making sure it’s happy.

How Do I Rehome My Tortoise?

Rehoming a tortoise is about doing your best to find a forever home.

Tortoises get stressed and depressed. According to the Journal of Physiology, dopamine (the neurohormone responsible for happiness and satisfaction) can be found in tortoises’ brains.

Dopamine levels can fall in tortoises, and moving from place to place is often the cause.

Constantly getting rehomed, adapting to different living situations, and being separated from environments it likes are all things that can easily depress a tortoise.

How can you increase a tortoise’s chances of being placed in the right home?

how to give away a tortoise

Find Someone Suitable

Look for certain qualities in someone who will take care of the tortoise. When vetting a potential owner, speak with them about their experience.

People with experience raising tortoises, turtles, or other reptiles are good options.

That doesn’t mean that people who’ve never owned tortoises before can’t make good owners, but you need to inform them of what to expect.

Always ask the potential owner if they have enough space. Even if the tortoise is small now, like a sulcata or a radiated tortoise, it can get far bigger than an owner expects

Talk to friends and family, and tell them you want to put your tortoise up for adoption.

Even if you don’t know anyone who wants a tortoise, they may know others who do. You can also advertise in the newspaper or on social media.

Research License and Registration

Depending on where you live, you may have gotten a license to own a tortoise. Tortoises are exotic animals that must be registered, depending on your state.

When you’re close to finding an owner, you may need to update that information so ownership of the tortoise is registered under the right name.

Animal Rescue Center

Look around local rescue centers and organizations in your area because they should have less difficulty taking in an unwanted tortoise.

The best option would be a rescue focusing on reptiles and exotic pets. However, if you can’t find an exotic animal rescue organization, one that focuses on other animals may still take the tortoise.

There’s no harm in calling rescue centers farther away if you don’t have local rescues.

Talk To a Vet

Even if the vet isn’t specialized in reptile care, they may still know someone who is.

There’s no harm in calling different vet centers to see what information they can give you, whether it’s other tortoise owners or a vet they work with.


Most medium-sized zoos have at least one large reptile enclosure.

If you have a large tortoise, a zoo is more likely to adopt it. Although many zoos function as reservations that protect animals, at the end of the day, they make a profit through spectacle.

The bigger the tortoise, the more impressive it’ll be to audiences.


If you bought the tortoise from a breeder and they have a return policy, you should be able to return it.

If you didn’t buy the tortoise from a breeder, getting them to take the pet may be harder. Breeders are careful about exposing their tortoises to outsiders.

Unfamiliar tortoises may have diseases that spread. Still, if the breeder can’t take the tortoise, they may let you know where to take an unwanted tortoise.

Online Communities

Visit tortoise forums, especially those in your local area, and ask how you can find a home.

Owners are usually passionate about tortoises and will help you find other resources and discuss the options. You may even find someone locally who will want to adopt the tortoise.

Can I Give My Tortoise To A Pet Store?

Sometimes, you can give a tortoise to a pet store. It depends on how big the store is, whether it has space and if they feel like it’s worth investing in the tortoise temporarily.

Like breeders, returning a tortoise to the pet store you bought it from should be easy.

Many for-profit stores have a return policy. However, if you didn’t buy the tortoise from a pet store, it might be more difficult to give it away.

Tortoises are easy to care for, but only after you have everything you need to raise them. If the pet store isn’t prepared to handle an exotic creature, they won’t take it.

How To Give Away A Tortoise

Once you’ve found someone who can adopt your tortoise, there are factors you must consider before it gets rehomed. They’ll help you avoid any future problems that may arise after giving the tortoise away, especially if you give it to somebody you know.

Although the tortoise no longer belongs to you, the new owner may try to contact you again. This is even more likely when the owner is dealing with a tortoise for the first time.

Even if you had it briefly, the new person might want to contact you for guidance.

Take It To A Vet

If it’s healthy, inform the new owner and give them a copy of the vet’s receipt or report as proof.

Let the new owner know if the tortoise is ill and you can’t heal it before it gets rehomed. The person should be informed they must nurse a sick tortoise back to health.

Depending on the affliction, the tortoise may not live as long as previously thought, or the new owners may have to spend money on medication and vet visits.

At worst, it could infect other tortoises. If the new owner unknowingly takes in the sick tortoise, it may get rehomed.

How do i rehome my tortoise?

Instruct the New Owner

Give the new owner as much information as you can about the tortoise.

They can use this to create an environment the tortoise will easily adapt to. Any details about the tortoise’s eating habits, preferences, or temperament should be beneficial.

If you’ve owned the tortoise for a long time and have medical records and birth information provided by the breeder, give those to the new owner.

Give Away The Tortoise’s Belongings

The tortoise will appreciate having familiar items in its new home, including its tank, climbing toys, domes, food bowls, and other gear.

When you give the tortoise’s belongings away, avoid washing them. That way, they’ll retain the comforting, familiar smell the tortoise likes.

What Not To Do With A Tortoise You Don’t Want

If you can no longer care for your tortoise, there are certain things you must never do.

For one, you must never set your tortoise free outside. Setting an exotic animal free in the wild is illegal in many places because it can harm wildlife and is considered animal abuse.

Tortoises contain bacteria that are specific to their microbiome. Predators that live in areas where tortoises are abundant are used to these bacteria.

However, the animals in your local area are most likely unprepared. If a wild animal were to eat the tortoise you set free, it could get sick, spread disease, and ruin the health of local wildlife.

Animal abuse is a punishable offense in many states, and setting free a domestic tortoise that has never survived in the wild by itself is a death sentence.

Many people don’t know the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. Unfortunately, they may think the tortoise can swim and throw it into bodies of water, where the tortoise eventually dies.