The Turtle Lover's Utopia

Tiny Turtles Illegal in Florida!

Two turtles with one stacked on top of the otherWell…not quite yet, but as of July 1st, turtles smaller than 4 inches in length will be illegal to own. Stores have already stopped selling turtles as of last July, in compliance with a Florida state law outlawing the sale of exotic creatures.

The law comes from having so many red-eared sliders released into the local population. Being quicker on land and in water, the turtles are overrunning the locals and interbreeding, creating a new species of turtle.

So, while you may have a red-eared slider now, in the future you will have to apply to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for a free permit to possess the turtles. If you live in Florida and you own one, consider yourself lucky to do so.

(Photo courtesy of Elma Avdagic.)

CORRECTION: Thanks to reader Katrina, we’ve been informed that it was actually the sale of red-eared sliders that was banned in Florida due to their cross breeding with the native yellow-bellied sliders. Please see her comment below for the full details.

27 Responses to “Tiny Turtles Illegal in Florida!”

  1. adriana said on March 2nd, 2008 at 2:54 pm:

    i do not like that law! i dont live in flordia but that law still seems harsh! they are baby turtles you people! they are not monkeys! they should not make that a law!

  2. heshna said on December 9th, 2008 at 7:36 pm:

    wow nice comment

  3. bob g said on February 11th, 2009 at 6:41 pm:

    hey wht kin of turtle is in tht picture plz reply

  4. Mr Turtle Head said on June 6th, 2009 at 4:17 pm:

    What do I do when a Turtle sits outside in front of my door? I live in SMELLRAY BEACH FLORIDA….

  5. admin said on July 8th, 2009 at 8:29 am:

    I’ll be answering your question in my next advice column Mr. Turtle Head, so stay tuned!

  6. admin said on July 11th, 2009 at 12:37 pm:

    @ bob g – These are red eared sliders.

  7. Katrina said on August 11th, 2009 at 11:06 am:

    Actually, the sale of turtles under 4″ has been illegal in all 50 states since the mid 70s. It’s the sale of RED-EARED SLIDER turtles was banned in the last couple of years in Florida, because red-eared sliders are not native to Florida and can cross-breed with the native yellowbellied sliders.

    And those cute little babies can grow to be 6-12″ with proper care, needing at least a 75 gallon tank, and live to be 20-60 yrs old. It’s illegal to release turtles acquired from a pet store or breeder.

  8. admin said on August 11th, 2009 at 11:43 am:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification Katrina! I’ll find a way to work it into the blog post. :)

  9. Amanda said on November 4th, 2009 at 3:45 pm:

    I don’t like it either…I have turtles and snakes and i don’t want to lose them and deal with all this because of ppls stupid acts

  10. Help the turtle said on December 30th, 2009 at 7:19 pm:

    What do you do if you bought 2 of these red eared turtles from chinatown and thought that they would stay really little?? Can you sell them back to the store?? Would Petco take them?

  11. admin said on May 4th, 2010 at 12:09 pm:

    You might be able to sell them back to the store, but there are no guarantees. Petco I’m sure would not take them. Your best bet is to take them to your local animal shelter and see what they can do for you. Good luck!

  12. Kaitlyn said on June 1st, 2010 at 6:36 pm:

    This is bull i have 2 baby turtles this is wrong if someone gives me a ticket i gonna tell them to flick off and mind ur own buisness

  13. Kaitlyn said on June 1st, 2010 at 6:37 pm:

    This is bull i have 2 baby turtles that i caught

  14. ANA said on July 8th, 2010 at 8:36 am:

    It’s a shame that people are so irresponsible, they purchase pets, get tired of them and dump them. I’ve had a red eared slider for over 10 years now…a friend had purchased a small one for his son who wouldn’t take care of it and he was going to put it in the lake behind his home. She was so sweet I took her and haven’t regreted it for one second, don’t get me wrong, it’s a constant battle keeping her pool clean, making sure her diet is consistant with her needs, making sure she’s let out in May and June to lay her eggs (no male so they’re not fertile)…but she’s worth it…if we keep pets they depend on “us” to take care of them and all their needs, and in return they give us so much joy and plenty of laughs.

  15. admin said on July 8th, 2010 at 9:09 am:

    I agree Ana. I think it’s the mentality of today. Most things are “disposable”, so we apply that to our pets as well. If you accept the responsibility of taking care of a creature, you should follow through. (Thank you for stopping by!)

  16. airen said on August 11th, 2010 at 10:53 pm:

    Has there been any revent changes to this law? I work in a smaller pet store, and a larger one down the road sells these itty bitty tutles for dirt cheap. I help the owners as much as I can, but most are not willing to give the lil guys what they need (i.e. A FILTER!), and a lot don’t even realize they don’t stay small. None of us understand how this is legal…

  17. admin said on August 12th, 2010 at 11:08 am:

    No, there haven’t been any changes in the law that I know of. However, the best source for that is the Fish and Wildlife office.

    I suspect that they are selling them under the clause that they are strictly for scientific, educational, or exhibitional purposes. Use as a pet does not fall under that clause. Hopefully they are asking each and every customer what the use is for, if not, they could get into some serious trouble with the state and face fines. I suspect most stores don’t ask their customers what the turtles are for in fear of losing the sale all-together.

  18. Katrina said on August 16th, 2010 at 1:41 pm:

    To Airen,

    The store is breaking the law, pure and simple. It’s still illegal to sell a “normal phase” red-eared slider in FL, and it’s still illegal to sell a turtle under 4″ “in connection with a business” unless for “bona fide educational, scientific, or exhibition purposes”. The FDA does not consider a pet store, mall kiosk, or road side vendor to be “bona fide”. Trying to give away baby turtle with the sale of a tank and/or set-up constitutes as “selling”. Just giving a baby turtle away, or selling one by a hobbyist, IS legal, though.

    Recent events have been confusing, and some people think the federal 4″ regulation has changed, but it is still in effect in all 50 states.

  19. admin said on August 20th, 2010 at 3:46 pm:

    Thanks for clarifying that Katrina. I was having a hard time finding updated information on the law online.

  20. Heather said on August 26th, 2010 at 7:44 pm:

    Great! So I just bought 3 tiny turtles @ a souvenir shop in Florida. The guy told me they would stay little and all I had to do was feed them once a week and keep them warm. They are not the red eared kind but look the same otherwise. I live in Ohio & brought them home for my kids! Any advice? I don’t have a filter but clean the water every week.

  21. admin said on August 27th, 2010 at 8:50 am:

    Heather, not much you can do at this point about having bought them and brought them home. However, you’ll want to figure out what kind they are, just to make sure you are taking care of them appropriately. Also, as they get older, with that many turtles in one tank, you will need to give them a large space to roam and eventually add a filter, basking area and heat lamps. But my recommendation to you is to find out what kind they are and then go from there searching for the appropriate care sheets online. Enjoy!

  22. John said on September 10th, 2010 at 3:16 pm:

    Katrina is correct….I work a pet store in florida and have stopped selling baby turtles awhile back, especially when I called the FDA to find out about this law. They Stated “yes” the law is in effect still. Now Florida has banned red ear turtles…..but my competition down the street is still selling turtles with that same note on the tank “sold only for educational purposes” which like katrina states is illegal. Turtles cant be sold as pets from ANY commerical business to the public. now a distributor of turtles can sell to a scientific, educational, or exhibition instit..

  23. Katrina said on September 16th, 2010 at 7:52 am:

    Heather, you can report the store that sold the turtles to the FDA (especially considering they lied about how to care for the turtles and how big they get). I’d recommend http://www.turtleforum.com to help ID the turtles. Yellowbellied sliders, maps, and cooters/redbellies are also commonly sold as hatchlings in tourist areas now.

  24. Zaynab said on November 14th, 2010 at 3:16 am:

    Hey everyone…@ANA: i have been wanting a turtle for years and final i went to some event at grant park and a guy there was saling some recently, very small and Cute turtles….i bought one and i love him very much…i dont really know how to take care of him so i thought about leting him go freely into the pond….but i really want him so first i decided to look up how to take care of him and follow steps on talking care of him….i didnt know the exact kind of turtle he was until i looked up tiny turtles with yellow underneath =) and it brought me to this site and a couple of other sites that had a picture of the exact same turtle i have and now i know he is a red eared slider =) and i really would like if you would tell me how he is suppose to be taken care of so that i can fix him up a nice home! i am an animal lover and i rather let my animals free then to not be taken care of properly in my hands…you said you had one for 10 years. can you plz help me out? and anyone else who know how to take care of or have any advise for me plz let me know. thank you =)

  25. admin said on November 16th, 2010 at 11:53 am:

    Hi Zaynab,

    Check out the care sheet for red-eared sliders here: http://www.turtletopia.com/care-sheets/care-sheet-red-eared-slider/


  26. shane said on December 5th, 2010 at 10:43 pm:


  27. admin said on December 6th, 2010 at 12:23 pm:

    No. Your pet turtle has never had to avoid predators (larger fish, raccoons, birds, larger turtles, alligators if you’re in the right part of the country, etc.) and would be an instant meal. It also has no idea what to eat in the wild. Release your domesticated turtle can also introduce diseases into the population.

    If a turtle was purchased, it should NOT be released, it should go to a rescue group or to an individual with the knowledge and RESPONSIBILITY to keep it alive. Please talk to your local animal shelter to find a home for the turtle.