It is often aimed at tortoises that they are their lazy person pet, which couldn’t be further from the truth if you tried even if I have been lazy in my early years. Yes, a tortoise will not need you to take physical walks around the block as you would with a dog. However, you will need to be attentive to their needs whether your dealing with lighting or food, and let’s not forget dealing with the complete safety of their enclosure.
However, before we even consider all this, we need to know where we should and shouldn’t buy our tortoises. We want to make sure that our breeders are reputable and ethical. Getting your tortoise from the wrong person can set you up for years of trouble.
You should buy a tortoise from a reputable breeder as they will give hatchling the best care possible. If you are buying online or from a store, the supplier should have a physical address and be happy to answer questions and happily show their living condition.
There are four main places you can buy a tortoise, and I aim to show you the pitfalls of all to help you get the healthiest tortoise from the most ethical supplier.
Buying A Tortoise From Tortoise Breeders
There are many definitions of breeders in the USA, the UK, and many other countries worldwide. Indeed there is only one definition of breeder you will be thinking, right?
Well, for me, some people call themselves breeders who breed for money. Then some breeders are passionate about tortoises and care for the population of the tortoise.
You will find the latter will treat their hatchling and tortoises with the utmost care. Their knowledge amount the species they breed is vast to offer them the best care, and this knowledge is happily passed onto new owners.
A good breeder will be more than capable of answering all your questions about your purchasing breed. Questions on spacing, lighting, food, and even the perfect humidity a reputable breeder will have no problem answering.
If you ask the “breeder” any question on the above subject, they don’t seem knowledgeable. It is a sure-fire way of telling if they know the breed and the care they require. If you get that feeling, it would be much better to walk away than have the heartache down the line.
A breeder that cares for their tortoises will ask you questions. They are tortoise people and only want the tortoise to go to the best home.
They will not ask anything personal, just about your setup, and the lighting will be the main questions. Asking you do you know the correct diet is also a common question an excellent breeder will ask.
Having photos of your setup to show them and a care sheet will be excellent and show them you want to care for their tortoises. If you don’t seem prepared, then a breeder should refuse to sell you the tortoise as you are underprepared to give the tortoise the correct care.
Don’t be put off by question; the breeder will not expect you to know everything. In most instances, they will tell you where you may have gone wrong in your preparation and help you get it right.
It is becoming common practice for breeders not to meet at their breeding facility due to theft. It’s a real shame as you can’t get to see the tortoise’s living conditions, but it is a reality.
However, they still should want to meet you in person and carry out all their safety checks; someone who doesn’t want to meet should be a red flag. If they have separate locations, they breed; they should be happy to meet at their home.
There are dangers of meeting people to exchange money, and you want to practice extreme caution. Meeting in a public place and with others is preferable, but their home address would be best.
Buying A Tortoise From A Tortoise Dealers
Tortoises dealers and tortoises breeders are the same, right? Wrong dealers can often be seen to undertake underhand tactics to take your money. Unfortunately, in the world of tortoises, this can often be true.
Tortoise dealers will often claim to be tortoise breeders but fear not; they are straightforward to spot. I say easy, but it does involve knowing the breed you want to buy, which you should have to care for them correctly.
Tortoise dealers will have little understanding about the tortoise, so any questions will be hard to answer. A dealer’s main aim is to get your money; they care not a jot about the tortoise. Asking some simple questions will have them flustered. If they appear disinterested in the home, you will provide the tortoise again; this is a sign of a dealer.
Not all dealers are bad, I must point out, but this is when they act as a middle man. However, you will find these types of dealers open about the fact and get your questions answered.
More on this subject below, but in parts of Europe, you will need Article 10 documents to sell Annexe A tortoises. It is a sure-fire sign you are dealing with an unscrupulous dealer if they don’t offer this document; they are breaking the law. If you do come across this in the UK, you should contact DEFRA.
In the US, you are not allowed to sell native tortoises or tortoises with a captive length below 4inchs. Again you are likely dealing with a dealer if they are willing to sell you something that falls within these categories.
Buying A Tortoise From A Pet Shops
Pet shops have got a bad reputation within the tortoise communities and, in some cases, quite rightly.
However, there are exceptions to the rule, but pet shops I have dealt with stay within the law. Just because they stay within the law doesn’t mean I would recommend buying a tortoise from them. Pet stores can have the policy to reward animals’ sales, which leads to a lack of care for the tortoise’s welfare.
Pet stores are less likely to breed their tortoises and import them from southern or central Europe. While this is entirely legal, it is a business, and the care hatchling tortoise need can be secondary.
The care a hatchling tortoise gets is key to how its life will end up. If your new tortoise has not been correctly cared for when it was a hatchling, then you may face many problems. Pyramiding is a common problem with captive breed tortoise, more so with store-bought tortoise.
Possibly a coincidence, but one of the main reasons pet stores have a bad reputation. A breeder that offers their hatchlings the best care should be your first choice.
Buying A Tortoise Online
Now, buying a tortoise online involves a tortoise being sent through the postal system. It is completely frowned upon, and you should avoid anyone who sends tortoises through the postal system.
With this, that doesn’t mean you can not buy a tortoise online, but getting everything right can take more time and effort.
Reputation is critical for online sales check reviews on Google business, FaceBook, and Twitter people are more than happy to share bad experiences. These places should be your first port to spot potential dangers.
Next, you want to make sure there are a physical address and phone number you can contact. Contact the business in question and ask questions as you would any other breeder. Again someone who cares for tortoises will be happy to answer your questions.
Lastly, delivery, how do we get around that you may be wondering. First, I must point out I would never buy a tortoise from anyone who would send a tortoise through the postal system.
Walking delivery is the only safe and ethical way to transport any animal. A dedicated delivery driver picks up the tortoise and handles the whole transport process.
This will cost you more than standard delivery, around £50-£100 in the UK. With it being such a large place in the US, it may not be available in your area or cost much more.
Article 10 Document
If you are in Europe, then you will want to know about Article 10. Many of the common breeds kept falling into the Annex A category that needs a certificate to own.
And we’ve covered article 10 in a lot more detail in our can you sell a tortoise guide.
The breeds that fall under Article 10 Annex A legislation are:
- Angonoka tortoise
- Berger’s cape tortoise
- Bolson tortoise
- Egyptian tortoise
- Geometric tortoise
- Hermann tortoise
- Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise
- Madagascar spider tortoise
- Marginated tortoise
- Negev tortoise
- Pancake tortoise
- Radiated tortoise
- Spur-thighed tortoise
- Galapagos Giant Tortoise
If you are buying any of the above breeds and the person you are buying it off, don’t mention Article 10. Find someone who is offering you the certificate, as, without it, you are unlikely going to be able to sell on the tortoise if you ever need to.
Questions to Ask Prospective Sellers
Throughout this article, I have said you should be asking the person you are buying the tortoise from questions. Regardless of who you choose to buy your tortoise from, the questions you ask will pretty much be the same. Asking these will help you spot a reputable seller and help you get a healthy tortoise that has been raised correctly.
Don’t forget it’s not all about your question; a reputable breeder will offer advice on your setup and things you may be getting wrong. A breeder wants you to provide the tortoise the perfect home, and they should be willing to help point you in the right direction.
Questions to ask tortoise sellers:
- Where do you breed your tortoises? Are provisions taken to stop cross-contamination with other breeds that can lead to health issues?
- Can I visit where you breed, or can you show me photographs?
- What are the requirements for the tortoise lighting and heating (you should know them to see if they are knowledgeable)
- What are the requirements and portion size for the tortoise dietary needs (again, you want to know this to see if they are knowledgeable)
- Would you be happy for me to look over my setup (photographs)
- Would you be happy for me to contact you if I ever run into any problems in the future?
- Do you provide me with a care sheet precisely for my tortoise breed?
- If buying online, what delivery method do you use? (you want them to use walking delivery)
These are all perfectly acceptable questions to ask anyone selling tortoises in any environment. If you feel the person you are talking to is being evasive or lacks knowledge, I will walk away.
The heartache that comes with a pet that becomes ill is not worth the risk, and a pet tortoise tends to become sick slowly, which is so horrid to see.
How Much Can I Expect to Pay a Reputable Seller For my Tortoise?
How long is a piece of the string always comes to mind when I see a question around the cost of tortoises. Many various elements affect the price of tortoises.
If you follow all the checks and ask all the right questions, you are sure you are dealing with a reputable business. Then you shouldn’t have to worry about paying too much for the tortoise.
A reputable business relies on its reputation, so they are unlikely to charge it too much for a tortoise; however, understanding the price can help.
If you want a funny analogy for tortoises’ price, it is like a fine wine; the older they get, the more expensive they become. So with that in mind, hatchlings can cost you anything from $50 up to a few thousand dollars for a fully grown adult.
Hermann’s are one of the most famous tortoise breeds to keep due to their size, and these can run you between $40-$100. With older tortoises costing you anything up to $700.
Check online for prices to see the going rate, but keep in mind it’s not the tortoise’s price. You need to know a tortoise is the right animal for you as they are a long-term commitment.