Pet-Keepers Manifesto

In my efforts to be a responsible pet owner, I promise to try to:

Obey all applicable laws dealing with my pet.
I will obtain the proper licensing and permits, get necessary shots, keep
only animals that were legally obtained and legal to own in my area. (Many tortoises require permits to keep or transport, and may be considered “exotic” pets in some areas.)

Obtain my pet in a legal and humane way.
I will avoid buying animals that were raised in “mills” or inhumane
conditions, strip collected in the wild, shipped in unhealthy ways, etc.
This includes collecting my pet from the wild where it is illegal or ill-advised. (Adult Russian Tortoises offered for sale are usually wild-caught and usually poorly treated.)

Learn enough about my animal to understand its basic needs.
I will gain a basic understanding of its cares, housing, diet, social needs, and psychology so I can better care for it.
(A lot of people think that tortoises are really easy, low maintenance pets and do not even bother doing any homework before buying one.)

Care for it and feed it in a way that is consistent with the current “best practices”.
“Best practices” are the care standards that experienced keepers and experts generally
agree are the best way to do things for this animal. As our experience
and research grows, we sometimes recommend changes in the way we care
for animals, and I will try to follow those recommendations. (For example, some self-proclaimed “experts” say that red-footed tortoises don’t need any UVB lighting, while most better-educated specialists would disagree with this.)

Remember that what it needs and what I want may be different, but I will keep its needs the top priority.
Maybe I am not in the mood to take my dog for a walk; or I want to keep my
fish in a smaller, prettier tank; or cash is tight and I would rather
spend it on something other than pet food… but whenever possible, I will
try to make sure my pet is taken care of anyway.

Not cause my pet unnecessary stress.
I will not do things like tap on fish tanks, carry skittish animals,
force animals to dress up or act like dolls, expose them to loud sounds
or flashing lights, have unfamiliar animals get too close, etc. (Dogs often stress tortoises, as does being carried or startled.)

Plan for the animal’s growth and changing needs.
A tank that was perfect for a young animal may become crowded quickly.
Older animals are often less cute and fun than they were when they were
young, but as a responsible owner, I have already planned for that. (With tortoises, this can also mean planning for a very long life, sometimes a hundred years!)

Plan for the animal’s medical care and emergency needs.
Make sure the animal’s medical needs, routine and emergency, are met by a
veterinarian with knowledge of my animal. Have a plan for providing
care in a power outage, evacuation, or other disaster. (Find a vet who either knows about reptiles, or is willing to do some research. Have a plan for providing heat when the power goes out.)

Socialize my animal correctly.
Many animals do best when they are trained, or raised with others of their
kind, or raised alone, etc. I will follow the current best practices for
my animal. (Most tortoises do not like cage mates most of the time, although species like red-foots are more tolerant of groups.)

Breed my animal intelligently.
I will only allow breeding if I am able to care for all aspects of the
process: mating, eggs or birth, caring for the young, etc., and only if I
have workable plans for the offspring. This includes not breeding animals that there are already too many of. Overpopulation of some pet animals is a real problem in many parts of the world. They pose a risk to human life, and disrupt the natural ecosystem- often to
the point of causing other animals to go extinct! (With turtles and tortoises, this would be the red-ear slider, and Sulcata tortoises.)

Respect other people.
I will clean up after my pet, keep my pet secure and others safe from my
pet, and remember that some people may not wish to see, be near, or hear
about my pet. This also includes taking allergies into consideration. I will keep my pet under appropriate control at all times. I will use whatever is appropriate — fences, cages, leashes, training, etc.- to make sure that my animal is safe and under control at all
times, and that it is supervised even when “running loose”.

Never release my pet to the wild.
Far too many people release unwanted pets, who then suffer or disrupt the
natural order. Unwanted pets should be adopted out, given to rescues,
or, as an extreme last case scenario, humanely euthanized.

“Loss-proof” my pet.
Whenever possible, I will tag, microchip, or mark my animal in accordance with
the best practices for the species so if it is lost, it can be returned
quickly. (Many keepers simply paint their ID info on the tortoise’s shell, and microchipping is a valid option for most species.)

Further my animal’s cause.
This may mean helping to teach people about my animal, supporting rescue
efforts for my animal’s species or breed, helping research or
conservation efforts, or supporting changes in laws to protect my animal
or its relatives. For most animals, this also means that I will try to
only buy animals that are captive bred and raised, shipped, and sold in
humane ways.

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