Tortoise Surrender

Please complete the following form to inquire for more information about the surrender options for your particular case and your particular tortoise. By completing the form, there is no obligation to surrender. The form is simply to start a conversation about how we could help. Below the form you will find some basic information though that should answer some FAQ.

How to decide on rehoming or rescue options…

If you find yourself in a position where you no longer can care for your tortoise or you feel the tortoise deserves better, the next step is deciding what methods of rehoming will result in your tortoise finding the best home, and you feeling at peace with the outcome.

So what are the options you have?

  1. Finding a new home yourself through facebook or craigslist. There is no doubt, you will probably be able to find a new home on craigslist or facebook groups. In some cases, if the owner is diligent about quizzing and selecting interested parties, indeed, good homes can be found. It’s more difficult though, without an official application, to really dig into the details to uncover any hidden red flags. Additionally, there is typically no contract signed in these situations. Adoption contracts are important because their purpose is to allow previous owners to retain partial ownership. Without a contract, you may lose contact with the tortoise, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. The new owners can turn around and sell or rehome the tortoise to anyone without your consent or without even telling you. They may be super neglectful if you didn’t screen them well enough beforehand, and there’s no way to get the tortoise back. (Obviously you see where we stand on this option!) But this may be acceptable to some, and if so, there is a facebook group mediated by our rescue to help provide this option. Please feel free to at least message us and ask our opinions for judging new homes, if you’d want it. But obviously, we believe there are better options….
  2. The next option is to find a rescue organization, like ours, to help find the best new home. Not all rescue organizations are created equally, though. Some could quite literally be considered “flippers” if they ask outrageous fees, or they more so resemble a pet shop if they have really lose adoption requirements. I’d suggest looking over each rescue’s adoption application to see what questions they ask. Also what fees or requirements come along with adoption? Email or ask to speak with others who’ve rehomed or surrendered through that rescue and see what their experience was like. Most often, in our rehoming process, we ask if the owners can hang onto the tortoise(s) while we look for new homes. During that time, we will make a rehoming post and ask for those interested to adopt to fill out our adoption application. We will take a few weeks to screen those applications, ask follow-up questions to those interested, request photos of setups, etc. We do not do home visits, since we aide in non-local rehoming as well, but we do call references (vets) if necessary. Once we feel we have a few good options, we will send you the applications (with personal contact info removed for initial privacy of applicants) and all other info/photos they’ve provided. Since we only send you homes that we’ve already “approved,” we are okay with any of them being chosen. So the final decision is completely up to you. And since you still have the tortoise in your possession, it’s completely your choice to say none of them are good enough. So, there’s really no harm in trying this option to see what other homes are out there, especially if the rehoming is not urgent. Once a home is chosen, we will let them know the good news! We will then work with them to get setup, at least temporarily to house the tortoise. Once that’s done, you will sign a surrender contract which passes ownership to our rescue and gets the tortoise in our records/system. Then the rescue will have the adopter sign the adoption contract. The adoption contract allows the rescue to maintain partial ownership of that tortoise. The contract states they cannot participate in commercial/mass breeding, they cannot sell or rehome the tortoise, and if they find they can no longer care for the tortoise, they must give the tortoise back to us or let us help in the rehoming again (basically the rehoming of that tortoise will always from here on out be handled by us). The contract also outlines basic care requirements, which means if we find they ever grossly violate these requirements (basically if they are being neglectful owners), we have the legal right to take the tortoise back. Once that contract is signed by the adopter, we will get the adopter and the current owner into contact with one another to organize the hand-off (which is usually done without our involvement since we typically try to find adopters local to you). If by chance, everyone is located in central Iowa, we could organize to have the hand-off at our facility for a neutral location, in which case, at that time, we can also take care of some basic things like beak trim or health check. We do not ask adoption fees. Rather, we have the adopter sign up for the most appropriate “Care Program,” which is most likely the Complete Care Program. Please click the link for a complete explanation of what the program entails, but it is basically an advanced educational course (done by myself virtually) on tortoise care, and it also provides a care guide written by myself, lastly it provides some testing like UV and temperature testing of your actual setup, a scale to routinely weigh your tortoise (which this data is shared with us for continued monitoring), some food samples to try, and ongoing 1:1 consultations for advice. You can guarantee your tortoise will be well cared for with this option! Plus the $250 that goes towards the Care Program will financially benefit our non-profit rescue…. that’s a win-win.
  3. The last option is to surrender the tortoise to stay in our sanctuary. This would mean that we keep the tortoise under our care, permanently, as long as the tortoise is being sponsored (owners provide a small donation monthly to financially support their long-term stay). Please see sponsorship page for further information on what monthly donation is required in your particular case, since it will vary depending on species and sex of the tortoise. Those that sponsor their tortoise to stay in the sanctuary are given updates via email when requested, they are given photo updates often on our facebook page (we are always sharing photos and little funny stories of all our sanctuary tortoises!), and opportunities to visit with their tortoise by appointment (we have one lady who visits her tortoise monthly and provides her donation by cash each visit, which is totally awesome and she’s become a good friend). Keep in mind, we cannot accept every tortoise into the sanctuary due to space restrictions, but we do our best to accommodate for those interested in this option. Please inquire about this option to see if we have any openings for the sanctuary.

Redfoots/yellowfoots are our specialty at the sanctuary as we have a growing redfoot group that is quite social and roams a large community pen that is over 1,500 sq ft over summer. Pictured is a shot of the community redfoot pen during meal time. We love redfoots!

Sanctuary russian/greek/hermanns tortoises also roam a large female-only community pen, but we are typically only accepting females of this species into the sanctuary for this reason. Pictured is one of our sanctuary russians that is grazing on weeds we planted in the greenhouse on a rainy day.

We do not have many openings for sulcatas in our sanctuary, especially males, as they require a lot of space and resources (housed separately). So sulcatas will require a special inquiry for sanctuary stay. We would only take sulcatas into the sanctuary under very special considerations and generous financial support. Pictured is our only male adult sulcata who lives in his own pen. We do sometimes take in females though, if they get along well with other females.

Leopards, especially females, are usually accepted into the sanctuary. They are housed in a large community pen as they are a more social species as well. Pictured is a little guy who’s grown up at our sanctuary and just graduated to our adult leopard community pen 🙂

Unique species or high profile species are welcome to join the sanctuary, and in some cases, may not require sponsorship as they add value to our educational program. Please inquire about sanctuary stay for your unique species. Pictured above is Eli (left), a desert tortoise, who has lived in Iowa for 60+ years, and Tobie (right), an aldabra tortoise, who’s owner donated her to our sanctuary to stay long-term. These tortoises are very special to us.

If you still have questions about surrender, please contact us at