Most pet turtles are acquired through the pet trade. If you buy a turtle from a petstore, check it over well; there is a chance that it may be weakened and stressed and thus susceptible to disease, simply because traveling and living in a store are stressful for turtles. Now, with reptiles being the rage, a majority of petstore owners have learned about the proper care of turtles, and you will find that many have beautiful setups with healthy animals. However, you may find turtles that are not in perfect health for sale. Many store owners will do their best to help these animals, but it is difficult for them to pay individual attention to one sick turtle when they have dozens or hundreds of other animals to take care of. I have a tendency to buy the animal in need and nurse it back to health. However, if you are an inexperienced turtle owner, don't do this. Buy a healthy, strong turtle. You may want to point it out to the store owner politely, if you see an animal that seems to have a problem, and you can tell it to experienced members of your turtle or reptile club, and maybe they can help. In some states it is legal to collect a turtle from the wild and keep it as a pet. I don't recommend this practice, since the wild populations are being depleted as is, except if the animal is obviously in need of some care. Also, wild-caught animals usually have parasites and should be checked and possibly treated by a veterinarian. Here is my favorite way of getting a turtle: Consider adopting a turtle. Call your local animal shelter or ask at your herp club. Many people get turtles, then can't keep them and want to give them away. This is the most charitable way of acquiring a turtle and highly recommended. Adopted turtles can be in top condition or in miserable condition. Have the turtle looked at by an experienced turtle owner, or have it checked out by a turtle veterinarian. Also, when adopting a turtle, you can very often inherit the setup along with the turtle. If you are lucky, you know a friend who has hatched turtles, and you can become a proud owner of a captive-bred baby turtle. Such a turtle is likely to be in good shape, but you are faced with the difficult and rewarding task of raising a baby turtle. Turtles from Food Markets ========================= I get mail from a lot of people who purchase turtles from oriental food markets. This is noble, and one turtle less will be killed and eaten. On the other hand, it will do nothing to discourage sale of turtles as food animals. If you buy a pet turtle at a food market, I suggest you also let the authorities know that you disagree with the sale of turtles at food markets and/or with the conditions under which turtles are kept there. Also, be aware that these turtles are kept and shipped under terrible conditions, and thus you must expect such a turtle to be diseased. Take it to a veterinarian immediately, and also keep it separate from your other reptiles until it has a clear bill of health. Baby Turtles from Street Vendors ================================ I also get mail from quite a few people who purchase turtles at flea markets and from street vendors. These are most commonly baby red-eared sliders. Note that the commercial sale of baby turtles under 4 inches is illegal in the U.S. If the sellers are reported to the authorities, the vendor will be shut down. In the SF Bay Area, the turtles are confiscated and given to rehabers that work with Fish and Wildlife. From there, they are adopted out; hundreds of them every year. Baby turtles are cute, and so a lot of people will get them. Now, you can get a baby turtle legally by joining a club and asking club members that breed. If you do purchase a baby turtle from a vendor, please, also report the vendor. (You didn't break the law by buying or owning the turtle; only the commercial sale is illegal. Private selling and trading is legal.) Sadly, many of these baby turtles are kept under substandard conditions and are already stressed and sick by the time they are bought. Treating a baby turtle this small is very difficult. So, if you buy one, you are setting yourself up for a gamble. Maybe the turtle will live, maybe it will die. Provide the best conditions you can, and hope for the best. It is never a bad idea to have a turtle checked out by a vet. However, for very small turtles, treatment options may be limited. Pet Stores ========== Some pet stores take wonderful care of turtles and provide new owners with all the necessary information; others don't. Use your judgement when acquiring a turtle from a pet store. If the turtle is kept under less than ideal conditions, expect the turtle to be sick and have it checked out by a veterinarian as soon as you can. If a pet store keeps turtles under poor conditions continuously, you may consider reporting them to the Human Society. I don't endorse any stores, nor do I blacklist anybody. Breeders ======== There are quite a few breeders that sell a variety of turtles and tortoises. Some advertise on the Internet. Before ordering from a breeder, ask around and see what other people's experience with that company is. I don't endorse any breeders, nor do I blacklist anybody. Catching in the Wild ==================== Not recommended. Wild turtle populations are dwindling, and I discourage you from taking part in furthering this. Last Word ========= If you are new to turtles, ask around and get a healthy, juvenile or adult turtle. Provide it with everything it needs. Have it checked out by a veterinarian once a year. Once you have gained some experience, by all means, if your heart directs you to do so, expand your collection with turtles that need your help.