Turtle Rehabbers & Rescue Organizations- New Texas Law Clarification

by Anita Peddicord, Texas Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator

Here is SOME clarification of the new laws that will soon be in effect in Texas that effect individuals or organizations that have turtle collections for purposes OTHER than pet keeping or selling.

Texas state permitted wildlife rehabilitators do NOT need any other permits to possess turtles for rehab and release. The number of species in possession does not matter. [This is NOT what a local Houston area game warden told me but the non-game & permits dept. should know better than the game wardens (I hope).] So, for those of you with a state rehab permit, you are OK with the permit you have. You can have unlimited numbers of turtles in your possession. You do NOT have to record any turtles on your yearly report either (except the Texas Tortoise). Note: Some local game wardens may want you to keep a record of all the turtles in your possession but the permits department says you do NOT have to put them on the yearly report made to them. Also, there is NO time limit for rehab. You can have them in your possession for as long as needed for rehab. This does not give you the right to continue to possess an animal you know to be non-releaseable. To keep a turtle or tortoise permanently, in this case, you would need to apply for an educational permit from Texas Parks & Wildlife.

The permits and non-game departments of TP&W said in a phone conversation on August 23, 2007 that there is no allowance for turtle rescue individuals or organizations (not previously in possession of a wildlife rehab permit) involved in rehabilitating and/or holding turtles for adoption that aren't selling them. So, if you have SOME "pets" and/or some in rehab or are waiting for adoption, you can still only have 6 of 1 species PER PERSON IN THE HOUSEHOLD. Two people in household = 12 turtles of one species.

Becky, in the permits department, said they would NOT issue a new wildlife rehab permit to a person if they only wanted to rehab turtles. I did not ask if they would issue one if the person wanted to rehab the Texas Tortoise since it is labeled a threatened species. That might make a difference.

Jennifer, in the non-game department, did NOT recommend a person getting a commercial collection permit who only wanted it to allow for holding turtles for adoption. She said having that kind of permit would suggest to a game warden that the person might be involved with selling. She said if a person without any permits wanted to hold turtles for adoption, then they would need to obey the 6 of 1 species PER PERSON IN THE HOUSEHOLD regulation.

However, there is a "grandfather clause" that may allow for individuals who have animals that have come in from the pet trade or from owners who no longer want their animal to report the animals and then be allowed to keep their collections. This "grandfather clause" may not be greatly publicized by TP&W so we will publish the details on it once we have them. Since the disposition of unplanned offspring could be a problem also, there is talk of a captive breeding permit. Again, we will post any new information as we get it.

If the rule does end up changing things for already permitted wildlife rehabbers, they will receive a notification from TP&W in the mail.

It's not unusual for new laws and regulations from TP&W to be a bit fuzzy in the details so we expect things to be confusing for a while!

This is about all the information we have at this time. We will post updates as we find out new information.