About 6 weeks ago my husband found a tiny hatchling red eared slider caught in our pool skimmer basket. We had no idea how long he had been frantically swimming against the current to try to keep from drowning. This was on our private property, inside a fenced enclosure, so we did not "capture a turtle from the wild." I have a home full of rescued cats and a poodle, so I am accustomed to taking in homeless stray animals and caring for them. I wasn't sure what to do with the little guy so I put him in a tub of water and offered him some tuna, which he ate immediately. Later that same day, another even smaller RES showed up in our yard, so we brought him in also. I immediately started to research care for turtles while trying to decide what to do with the little darlings. I am not a kid. My husband and I are in our 50's and both responsible animal lovers and caregivers for them. I had two baby turtles when I was a young child but have had no experience with raising turtles as an adult. There is a lake nearby our home and a creek that runs behind our property that goes to the lake. We thought about taking them down to the creek, but were afraid they would be immediately eaten by predators. Our area is overrun with geese and ducks, which we are constantly chasing out of our swimming pool. There are foxes and even an occasional coyote seen in our yard, not to mention neighbors' dogs and cats who are allowed to run loose, despite the local leash laws. We went to a nearby pet shop and found turtle hatchling food, treats, a temporary container for them and from then on I went crazy. I researched and read everything I could find on red eared slider turtles before making the commitment to permanently adopt them. I love the "Ninja Turtles" from the cartoons and so I named them Leo and Mikey. Since then I have spent hundreds on supplies and equipment for providing a proper habitat for them to grow in. Leo, the smaller one had dark spots on his shell when we found him. I soaked him in Sulfa dip for a week and gave him special vitamin supplements, "dry-docked" him except for short periods in the water for feeding. Kept him basking under a UV light for 8-10 hours a day until his shell healed. I guess I may have taken a little too good of care of him as he is now about one and a half times bigger than Mikey! As you can probably tell by now, I am totally attached to these babies and they are already bonded to me. They immediately swim to me when they hear or see me come near. Mikey wants me to hand feed him every time and swims to me to pick him up! I put my hand in the water, he swims over, climbs into my palm and waits for me to lift him up a few inches above the water. Sometimes he will just sit there, but usually he dives/jumps off into the water. Immediately, he swims back and pokes his little head up to look for me and splashes around vertically in the water until I reach in and pick him up again. I started clapping and talking to him like to a little kid, just being silly at first, but he started responding to my voice and swimming around all excited, jumping up in the water towards me! My friends just can't believe what they see. I could write a book about these little guys, or gals can't tell yet ... they may be Leona and Mikayla!
Now for the BAD part and my request for advise: My regular vet only sees dogs and cats, so I was checking around to find a reptile vet in my area, as is recommended by every source I have read. I wanted to be prepared in case any illness should develop that I couldn't treat myself, such as one needing antibiotics or other prescription medications. I was told of one, which happens to be one I go to to purchase a special cat food that my vet doesn't carry. So while picking up a bag of cat food, I asked the receptionist about my turtles. To my complete horror, she told me if I were to bring them in they would have to keep them because of the Tennessee state laws regarding owning turtles! I couldn't believe what she was telling me. I had read about the 4" ruling for selling turtles, but nothing about it being illegal to "own" them. She said she would not report me or anything but I have been worried sick ever since finding this out. It took quite a bit of searching to find an official government site to verify this but apparently because they are "native wildlife" in TN, they are not supposed to be taken from the wild. I didn't take them from a public park, just rescued them from my pool area in my own back yard. And for their own safety, did not take them down to the creek. They are already so dependent and attached to me, I don't see how they could survive on their own now. Has anyone else had this type of problem? Any advise, especially what to do if they were to need vet care? They wouldn't be getting any kind of medication if they were living in the creek, but I had already made my commitment to their care as part of our family!
Just look at their photos ... Could you give them up?