Tortoise Adoption Program
Adopting and caring for desert tortoises
Each year the Arizona Game and Fish Department adopts out captive desert tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild because captive tortoises can transmit diseases that can decimate our wild population. They are nontraditional pets, but are fascinating animals and families can gain an appreciation of desert wildlife by caring for a tortoise and watching its natural behavior.
Under state law, desert tortoises are available for adoption for Arizona residents only.
Before adopting, it is strongly recommended that you to educate yourself about desert tortoises, desert ecology and what’s required to properly care for one. Adopters should also consider that healthy tortoises can live upwards of 80-100 years and should have a long-term plan in place in either, a will or other succession plan as the tortoise may outlive its owners.
Tortoises are typically only adopted from April 1 to Sept. 30 because they hibernate during the cooler months.
2020 adoption applications currently being accepted
We are still accepting applications for 2020 adoptions. Please allow at least 14 days for us to process your application. Also note that, if approved, tortoises will not be available for pick until April 2020.
*Note: Read through the materials below on how to care for a desert tortoise and complete your burrow before submitting your application.
How to adopt
- Educate yourself
- Review the Desert Tortoise Adoption Guide
- Build a burrow and tortoise enclosure
- Fill out the application
- Questions? Contact the Desert Tortoise Adoption Hotline 844 896-5730.
Per Arizona Game and Fish Commission Order 43, “possession limit is one desert tortoise per person per household.”
Adopted tortoises may be permanently marked so if it becomes lost and then found it can be identified by various animal care agencies or veterinarians. Note: the Tortoise Adoption Program does not microchip tortoises.
Information for Desert Tortoise Adoption
Your adopted tortoise will require a shelter and enclosure constructed specifically to ensure it doesn’t escape. Pools, ponds and other bodies of water must also be gated to prevent the tortoise from entering, as they cannot swim. The enclosure’s primary barrier should have a portion buried at least 6-8 inches to help discourage digging. The total height above ground should be at least 2′ for an adult tortoise and should include a solid visual section for the first 10″ from the ground up. This will help prevent the tortoise from rubbing its face and discourage escape. Similar adjustments should be made for a juvenile or hatchling enclosure. Additionally, the enclosure must be built to keep a dog from getting to the tortoise.
Enclosures must meet the following minimum size requirements for the size of the tortoise:
Adult tortoise – 18′ x 18′ or 324 square feet
Juvenile tortoise – 8′ x 8′ or 64 square feet
Hatchling tortoise – 4′ x 4′ or 16 square feet; must include a predator proof top
Remember that breeding of these captive tortoises is illegal and doing so leads to a surplus of tortoises needing homes.
Tortoises Native to Arizona Must Remain in Arizona
Under state law, desert tortoises cannot be removed from Arizona so if tortoise custodian plans to move from the state or passes away and no succession plan is in place (such as a will), it must be returned back into an approved adoption facility. If the tortoise is relocated within the state, please contact the nearest adoption facility to update your address in our records.
It is Illegal to Collect Tortoises From or Release Tortoises into the Wild
State-sanctioned Adoption Facilities