A great resource is the book "Red-Eared Sliders" from the Animal Planet Pet Care Library, available through Amazon.
Releasing a slider to a pond or lake isn't an alternative. This is illegal in most states. Red-eared sliders are not native to much of the USA and can cause environmental issues for native turtles. There's also the risk transmitting a disease to native wildlife. Even if you see red-eared sliders in a non-native area, more than likely they were dumped pets.
Remember the "Death Dish" - the first (and last) home of countless sliders for over five decades?
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- Baby sliders, aka "dime store turtles," can grow 8-13" long and live 30+ years
- It is illegal to release a slider into the wild in Mid-Atlantic states, as they are an "invasive species"
- Often the interest in surrendering a slider is due to the owner's lack of information on correct care
- If your slider has gotten "too big," a great option is to house him/her in an outdoor pond
- Healthy sliders kept outdoors can safely hibernate if provided with the correct environment
Consider contacting the county or city health department, also found in the blue pages, and contact your state wildlife or game agency. If you see this in Maryland, please contact the state Natural Resources Police at 410-356-7060 or the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene at 410-767-6742 to report the sale of hatchling sliders. In Baltimore City call NRP and BARCS at 410-396-4695.
Consider equipment or habitat changes that will provide easier care
If you are having trouble keeping your tank clean, consider purchasing a Python siphon. This accessory connects to almost any sink or faucet, and drains and fills an aquarium without requiring buckets or priming. Many pet stores and on-line stores, sell this product. www.pythonproducts.com
A good filter can help with water quality as well. You’ll need a stronger filter for turtles than fish. External canister filters work much better than in-tank or over-the-tank filters. Much equipment labeled “for turtles” is inadequate for the job. Some handy types make their own filter with a pond or fountain pump. Many people over-feed their turtles, impacting water quality and growth rate. An adult or older juvenile can be fed every other day. Some people also feed their turtle in a smaller "feeding container" such as a Rubbermaid or Sterilite container filled partially with water to keep food from fouling the aquarium water. Remember, you’ll need roughly 10 gallons per inch of turtle, so if your tank is too small, your water quality will reflect this as well. There is a "Habitat" section in the online forum www.turtleforum.com for cost-effective Do-It-Yourself ideas on housing and filtration.
If your turtle is growing larger and you need a larger tank fast but the budget doesn't allow for an up-grade in the near future, consider a large Rubbermaid or Sterilite container from a home improvement store until an aquarium or pond can be purchased. See photos of examples here. Also try Pennysaver, www.freecycle.org, www.
Re-locate your pet to an outdoor habitat for easier care
- Sliders do best in fenced-in backyard ponds of at least 300 gallons, dug below frost level
- A FENCED escape/predator-proof outdoor habitat needs less maintenance than indoor tanks
- If your own pond isn't an option, check with friends who have backyard ponds
- Healthy sliders have no problem hibernating in a pond over winter
- Outdoor sliders receive the healthiest exposure to UV light
When all else fails
If you absolutely cannot keep your turtle, consider one of the following options. Post an ad in the office of local pet stores and veterinary offices, or community publications. Petco and Petsmart typically allow ads to be posted. Some animal control agencies and humane societies will accept turtles. There's an adoption posting section at www.turtleforum.com, Some pet stores will accept unwanted turtles. Most nature centers already have enough animals to care for, and not all nature centers care for turtles properly. If using Craigslist.org, screen potential adopters very carefully, consider making a "surrender contract" for the adopter to sign, and ask to see the driver's license of the adopter before they take the turtle, so you can verify their address. You can also check alternate reptile rescue options.
If you absolutely cannot keep your turtle at this time, and cannot find a qualified home, consider humane euthanasia at the office of a qualified veterinarian. Although this might seem harsh, it's a humane alternative. There are thousands of sliders needing new homes, and quality homes are hard to come by. Euthanasia can be painless with limited stress if performed via injection by a qualified veterinarian. It is the final, selfless act of a kind and caring keeper to ensure pets have a quiet and painless end. DO NOT do this at home and NEVER drown or place an animal in a freezer, which results in an extremely painful death.