Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Burned Out Blues

Someone emailed us to ask the following question, and I thought I would share the answer here.

Question: You had a fancy website with graphics and photos for a while? That looked really cool. Why did you change it to the current basic, plain text site?

Our response:  The fancy site was nice to look at -- if you had a broadband connection and a fast computer. We found that a large percentage of our users did not have a broadband internet connection. (And since we live in rural New Mexico, we don't have broadband access, either.) The fancy site took forever to load over our dial-up connection. The website is viewed literally around the world, so we wanted to make it easy to view for people who have slow connections or who have to pay for every byte of data they download.

We also wanted to make the site more useful for mobile phone browsers. We hope that if someone is standing in front of the reptile display area of a pet store and they're considering buying a sulcata tortoise, they'd look us up on the web before they put down the charge card or plunk down hard earned cash to buy a pet that will be dumped in five to ten years.

Yes, I said dumped. The sad fact is that sulcata tortoises are now a disposable pet. Once they get larger than a dinner plate, owners dump them on rescue or animal care organizations (or worse, into the wild) on a regular basis. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you NOT get a sulcata tortoise as a pet at all, unless you are willing to make a lifetime commitment to an animal that will weigh 60 to 100 pounds, eat and poop like a horse year around, and require a lot of money expended on heat, light, housing, and feed.

Sound pretty negative? You bet. I'm tired of lugging tortoises around. I'm tired of hearing how the pet store swore to you that this tortoise wouldn't get big, and that when it did, the zoo would take it. I'm tired of having to explain to people why they managed to kill their tortoise by following the pet store's flat-out-wrong care instructions: "Keep it at 100 degrees, and don't EVER give it water. They're a desert critter so they like it HOT and DRY!!!"

I had the swine flu about six weeks ago. And even though I felt horrible, guess what? I still had to get up and wrestle tortoises on a daily basis. They had to go out to their pen, they needed their heated shelter cleaned, they needed fed and watered. Lugging a 60-pound tortoise isn't fun when you can hardly breathe.

Going on vacation? Think again. Do you have someone who can look after your tortoise(s)? Can that person actually lift the tortoise if necessary? Does he or she have a vehicle so that they can haul the tort to the vet if something of an emergency nature happens? Can he or she get the tort INTO the vehicle?

Grass hay is $20 a bale? Too bad. Now open that wallet anyway.

Out of control electrical bills every month? Welcome to the club. You are responsible for your tort's wellbeing, and allowing it to freeze is cruel and unethical. Put a sweater on -- you make heat. The tortoise doesn't, so it needs the heat mat or heat lamp.

Sick of people who want to dump their tortoise(s) on me? Yes. I am. You should have thought it through when you got the tortoise.

Your tortoise is sick and you don't have money to pay the vet bill? Don't expect me to feel anything but annoyance at you. Simply put: if you can't afford the vet bill, you shouldn't have the pet. Period. Don't get an exotic pet if you cannot afford to drop $200 to $500 at a vet's office every time you need to take the tortoise in. These are not pets for broke-ass people. (Although you may JOIN the ranks of broke-ass people if you have multiple tortoises.....)

We drive old vehicles that are in various stages of decrepitude. We pay a mortgage on five acres so that we have room for the seven sulcata tortoises we've ended up rescuing. These are sacrifices we've chosen to make -- although I find myself asking "WHY?!" more and more frequently these days.

So yeah: my advice to people who call or email Sulcata Station these days is this: DON'T GET A SULCATA!