my office got us turtles to take care of and bring home on weekends

A reader writes:

I work for a nonprofit and Covid has been very stressful for us. We are understaffed, overworked and underpaid, like many nonprofits. But recently our president announced something that is suppose to “bring staff together”: they got every office a turtle to keep and take care of.

A little back story: our president does not like being told no or getting any pushback from the staff. So it has created this odd environment of staff members praising her terrible ideas, while in actuality the staff is unhappy. I don’t work in the same office as the president, so the bad ideas usually don’t affect my day-to-day job. Plus I work in an amazing department with very supportive supervisors.

Even though no one will say anything, no one I have talked to is happy about the turtle. It creates more work for everyone and we’re already super busy. Also turtles carry thousands of diseases, including salmonella, and live to be 50 years old. During her announcement, the president mentioned that staff is expected to take the turtle home on weekends and holidays.

I do not want to take this turtle home. I have other pets at home, and I live with a sick mom who could potentially die if she contacted salmonella. Also, I did not sign up to be a turtle caregiver when I took this job. My direct supervisor is very supportive and also does not want to take the turtle home. But I know it’s going to be pointed out that we have not brought him home. (Our president is very big on calling staff out and putting them on the spot.) So I guess I’m asking, how do I set clear boundaries that I am not taking the turtle home without screwing over my coworkers or pissing off the president?

I just need to repeat it: Your organization got every office a turtle to care for and take home on weekends “to bring staff together.”

WTF.

Instead of addressing the understaffing, overwork, or low pay, they got you turtles to somehow smooth everything over. That would be absurd on its own, before you even get to the added work of caring for the turtles and the intrusion into your off hours.

But more importantly, this is bad for the turtles! Turtles are happier in their natural homes in the wild, and they’re social animals who prefer living in a group (of other turtles, not of office workers). They also have very specific needs, like controlled temperatures, heat lamps, water to swim in, a varied diet — is your office providing all that? Is each person who takes them home providing that?

I feel bad for all of you, but I feel worse for the turtles. I urge you in the strongest of terms to contact a local animal rescue group, explain what’s going on, and see if they can intervene. They almost certainly could do it without revealing who contacted them.

Alternately, you could try getting a group of colleagues together to push back on this, explaining your concerns about the turtles’ welfare and your inability to provide the care they need at your houses. I get that your coworkers have learned not to speak up about anything because your president doesn’t like it — but this isn’t “we’re using a confusing graphic on this mailing” or “we really don’t need these biweekly staff meetings.” It’s “we are causing harm to living creatures.” There’s a much higher moral imperative to speak up, and I hope you can convince them of that. If you can’t, then you’re back to needing to contact an animal rescue group.

Meanwhile, though, if you’re asked why you’re not taking the turtle home on weekends, just be very matter-of-fact that it’s not possible with your home-set up: “Oh, I can’t — I don’t have the right space, and my mom is sick and could die if she’s exposed to salmonella — that’s obviously not a risk I can take.” Say it very matter-of-factly, as if of course whoever you’re talking to will immediately agree now that they’ve heard these facts. As bad as your president’s judgment seems to be, she’s still very unlikely to respond to that by telling you that no, you need to risk your mother’s life.

If you didn’t have that situation with your mom, you could use a similar strategy with other facts — “Oh, I can’t — my house is really unsafe for a turtle.” “Oh, I can’t — I’m almost never home on the weekends and couldn’t do the necessary care.” Or, frankly, even, “Oh, I can’t — this is a bad set-up for the turtles and I don’t feel right about it.”

Or if you have a spouse or roommate, you can also blame them — “Bob said absolutely not” — that is part of the benefit of having them. Same with landlords or homeowners associations. There’s very little your boss can do about “it would violate our lease.”

But please contact a local animal group about what’s going on. Those turtles cannot speak for themselves and need you to speak for them.

{ 907 comments… read them below }

    1. GNG*

      Did…did the president never gradate from kindergarten? Pre-school/kindergarten is the only place I know of where it’s normal to have students take the class bunny home during school breaks.

      1. Workerbee*

        And oh, did I ever feel for the class pets on breaks! Typically given to families with no knowledge of how to properly care for and nurture said pet.

          1. Frenchie Too aka Venus de Milo*

            Hmmmm…I think this sounds like a fake letter. Maybe not. But it’s hard to imagine how a grown up manager would say “hey, my staff is overworked and underpaid, let’s get them a turtle!”.
            Sorry, I guess I believe it. But, dang, that’s gotta be one clueless president.
            OP, is his name Leonardo, or Michelangelo, Raphael, or Donatello?

            1. Free now (and forever)*

              In Bullock County, Georgia, rather than enforce mask mandates as most teachers wanted, the superintendent decided to let all the teachers wear jeans to work during the month of September, if they wanted to, as a consolation. No word if it consoled the Bullock County teacher who just died of Covid. So yea, I think this could be a real letter.

              1. Bulloch Co*

                I live here. My child is in public school. I assure the letter he wrote could’ve been in The Onion but unfortunately it wasn’t.

            2. Rainy*

              My sister teaches high school and was just told that she cannot use any newspaper or magazine articles about current events in her classes because they mention taboo topics like race, war, and socio-economic status, and represent divisive points of view.

              So…yeah, turtles don’t seem that far-fetched to me.

                1. Rainy*

                  She currently has one set of parents mad at her because her curriculum is too diverse, and one set mad at her because her curriculum is too white. The children involved are in the same class.

            3. RosyGlasses*

              I mean, I worked for a pediatric dentist who had water turtles (illegal to have in our state) and some sort of lizard. The staff had to clean the cages, feed the animals, and on some longer closures, take the animal home. I felt so bad for the animals.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          We had two gerbils (Snap and Crackle) as class pets when I was 7, and someone ended up taking them home every weekend, but at least our teacher took charge of them herself when it was the school holidays!

          1. Liz*

            We had gerbils too. Maybe a quarter of the class was interested in taking them home, and loved getting them for weekends. (It’s a good way to test drive a pet too, and help kids learn responsibility slowly.) Then – with parental permission – we were lucky enough to take them for a couple of summers.

            By the next summer, we had our own :)

            1. Barbara Eyiuche*

              Yes, my family was the go-to family for taking care of the school gerbils during summer vacation. At one point we ended up with 40 of them, between our own and the school’s.

            2. Alanna*

              I seem to recall that my childhood gerbils were the result of incorrectly sexed classroom gerbils … I work with a small animal rescue and while there are exceptions, we are not fans of classroom pets.

              1. Kal*

                As a kid, instead of a classroom pet my kindergarten class had a classroom stuffed animal. Given how messy and damaged it was by my turn, it was clearly a good idea for it to not be a real animal (my mom did help me clean it up so it’d be nicer for the next kid). In a later grade there was also a stuffed animal, but it came with a bunch of other things like a copy of SimAnt, SimEarth and other life science type stuff, so it could be play and learn at home. We each took turns having a week with it, and had to write a report on what we learned from it. I don’t feel I missed out from not having to care for an actual animal, especially since the care would have ended up on my parents cause I was too young anyway.

                1. Nerfmobile*

                  My daughter’s kindergarten class also had a class stuffed animal. Two, in fact! During the early part of the year the teacher did read-alouds of the “Frog and Toad” series, so there was a stuffed Frog and Toad that spent weekends visiting each child’s home in turn. When it was our turn, we took a photo of them sitting on the side of the swimming pool when she was in swim class. Super happy that we didn’t have to take care of a real frog and toad for that weekend!

              2. CountryLass*

                This is why my kids reception class had a class bear. You had to take him home for the weekend, take pictures of him wherever you happened to be and then tell the class what you did… I was sooo relieved when my youngest’s turn was on a weekend they were staying at my parents so I didn’t have to go through that!

                1. Skittles*

                  There’s a lovely episode of the Australian kid’s show called Bluey that is about the kids bringing the classroom stuffed toy home and needing to take photos, etc! It’s very cute.

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              I know it died in the summer holidays between the previous class and my class starting with that teacher, but I never knew how. If there was a story behind it I suspect it wouldn’t have been shared with a class of seven year olds – although at least we didn’t get the “Pop went to live on a farm” rubbish.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I think this is why schools have switched to having either stuffed animals or imaginary pets that get rotated around. You don’t have to worry about an allergy to an invisible rabbit, and Mr. and Mrs. Johansson can’t accidentally kill a stuffed animal because neither of them remembered to feed it.

          1. Artemesia*

            I remember reading a story — perhaps a tall tale– about a family that ate the class rabbit when it was sent home for a holiday with their child.

            1. Joanna*

              When I was a tween, my mom gave our pet rabbits to our neighbor. A few years later, it came up that it was so the neighbors could eat them. I was pretty upset when I found out.

              1. Theo*

                Oh no I am essentially your neighbor! We run a small meat-rabbit operation and have low-key put it about that I will take rabbits, No Questions Asked, to join that operator. And not necessarily as breeding animals. This has definitely motivated me to ask at least ONE question and it is “does your child know you’re doing this”.

                1. HoundMom*

                  I adopt all my rabbits from the Humane Society. Rabbits are not the easiest of pets and the amount of care needed is often underestimated. But if they are socialized and well taken care, they are like mini-dogs with a ton of personality. My latest bun (along with my rescue hound) have been my office mates throughout the pandemic. If you don’t want your pet bunny, please bring it to the Humane Society — there are a lot of people like me that will adopt them and adore having them.

              2. Sanity Lost*

                My grandfather and uncle did that to my dad’s pet bunny when he was 6. He came home from school and they served him dinner. After he was done they told him what he ate.

                They were….not nice people. Dad was always very paranoid about “surprise” dishes after that and refused to ever eat rabbit again.

                1. Mami21*

                  I think ‘not nice people’ is too kind a term. They sound like psychopaths. I’m sorry for your poor Dad.

                2. Mrieke89*

                  So in the Netherlands we have a Christmas song called ‘Flappie’ (popular kid’s name for a pet rabbit) which plays out this exact scenario. Kid thinks his rabbit slipped out of the cage, but a Christmas dinner, his dad says ‘ Look, there’s Flappie!’

                  Clearly people like this shouldn’t be parents.

                3. I take tea*

                  @Mrieke89* – that’s a Christmas song? Very joyful, I’m sure! And here I was thinking that the Christmas song about “that bird singing on the snow is your little brother who died last year” was a bit bleak…

              3. CountryLass*

                I worked in a pub that serve game animals at certain points of the year. I had been getting on well with some of the people at the table, but I hadn’t seen the whole table together, so I felt like the worst person EVER when I pitched up with the plates and a big smile, asking “who ordered Bugs Bunny?” only to spot, too late, the small child sitting at the table…

                As a side note, the question “Who ordered Jaws” during Seafood Week always went down well.

            2. KateM*

              Hah, I was thinking reading this story that the office workers should just sell the turtle and divide the money as bonus between themselves! They are rather expensive pets, too, unlike hamsters.

            3. tiasp*

              Reminds me of a michael moore film we had to watch in a class and one shot was of a sign “Rabbits for sale – pets or meat”

          2. Alanna*

            We had a stuffed animal like this when i was in first or second grade! It was a lot of fun, and I remember on my turn we took him on so many adventures and took pictures and had a great time. A much better idea than live animals!

            1. Ro*

              My son is in Year 2 (I think that’s like second grade – he’s six) and they have a stuffed dolphin that they take turns bringing home to have adventures with. It’s cute. Thank goodness it’s not a real dolphin :)

        3. Mimi*

          We acquired a turtle because we were the only family willing to take my brother’s 2nd grade class turtle home for the summer, and the teacher was scared that the next year no one would be willing to. A few years later we gave him to a neighbor to keep in her mini-menagerie, and he dug under the fence and escaped. Box turtles are endemic here, so I like to hope that he’s living his best life.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          The one year one of my kids got the classroom pet for the summer, the pet was a snail. My mom let the snail out for a run (crawl?) in our backyard and forgot. The snail ran away. I repeat, the snail ran away. It was annoying then, it cannot possibly not be 1000* more annoying when it’s an office turtle.

            1. Krabby*

              At the end of his school year, my dad won the raffle to keep his class pet (a mouse). My grandma was horrified. She told my dad that the mouse needed to be let outside daily for walks to “get some fresh air.” Everyday she’d bring the mouse and my dad a little closer to the forest at the edge of their backyard, until one day when my dad’s back was turned she kicked the mouse into the forest. Then she told my dad he ran away.

              My grandma told that story with a lot of pride every Christmas. Poor mouse :(

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          The only one happy when we had the class guinea pig for a week was our cat. He didn’t harm it but spent hours staring at it.

        2. Yellow*

          As the new owner of the former daycare guinea pig, I can tell you that not all parents hate when it’s their turn! I actively singed up for her, and ended up keeping her due to COVID.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            She is very fortunate that she found you to love and care for her, too often these little furry creatures are A/ unwanted and B/ inadvertently maltreated. I hope she stays with you for the rest of her little life. I happen to LOVE guinea pigs.

          2. Saraquill*

            My dad is a huge turtle lover, and has cared for them since long before I was born. I’d like to think we were a good choice for hosting the class turtle over the summer.

      2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        We had a turtle in elementary school. It escaped when one of my friends took it home to care for over summer vacation. Upon reading this, maybe that wasn’t an accident!

        1. SawbonzMD*

          They must’ve really been neglecting the poor thing if it was able to escape on their watch and they couldn’t find it. Turtles can’t move very fast!

          1. A CAD Monkey*

            That’s not true. when a turtle wants to move, it will move. (source: me, a turtle owner of 30 years)

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Just a homeroom turtle girl
                  Livin’ in a lonely world
                  She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere

                2. KateM*

                  My new water snail ran three rounds around aquarium when first introduced to it. Every time I looked, it was in opposite corner of previous check.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                After the third time one of my neighbors lost their Sulcata tortoise in their backyard (this is a variety that is only slightly less behemoth than the Galapagos), they started using rubber cement to glue the string of a helium balloon to the top of his shell every time they took him outside.

                1. I take tea*

                  That’s genius! But now I’m picturing a bit to many of the balloons and a floating turtle, a la Up :-)

              2. Carol the happy elf*

                Not a suitcase, a bindle stick, with a little bandana pouch. And when your back is turned, that guy gets up on his hind legs and books it.
                Verified: me.
                Turtle in question: Mr. McGillicuddy.
                Size: 4 inches wide.
                Last seen: July 4th, 1969.
                Favorite food: Romaine lettuce.
                ….sigh…I should never have let my friend put the watermelon shell over him by the fence; he dug out from under it and got lost. Guilt lingers still. He was supposed to eat his way out of the watermelon shell and fall asleep in blissful satiation.

            1. comityoferrors*

              Yeah, my turtle (adopted from Side of the Highway, USA c/o my dad the truck driver) was literally named Speedy because he would just scoot around our yard at an alarming rate.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            As a kid about 4-5 I found a turtle in the backyard at my house and wanted to keep it for a pet, so I put it in a box and took it inside. Mom helped me give it lettuce and water and told me it needed to be “kept cool” and should live in our basement. Tragically, the next day, when i went down to check on it…it had escaped.

            I was telling this story IN COLLEGE and had the realization that my turtle did not, in fact, escape from a tall box in a cold basement, climb 15 steep stairs, and let himself out through the locked back door and locked garage.

            Mom set that poor little guy free several houses down from us. I felt so betrayed by her lie.

            1. Pants*

              I felt this when I found out about “the farm” where my mother took a few animals to live out their lives.

            2. Nannerdoodle*

              I’m glad this stuff was the one thing my parents never lied about. They were direct when my turtle died when I was a little kid. They couldn’t lie about the raccoons eating the goldfish in the outdoor pond because I saw it happen (which was very sad as a 5 year old).

              1. Kevin on Earth*

                My sister thought she gave my young nephew a very age appropriate explanation of death when their beloved dog passed away. So she was confused months later, when talking about a BBQ at Kevin and Jane’s house, my nephew got all excited to see their dog again.

                Turns out his precious little brain turned “gone off to heaven” into “gone to live with Kevin”.

              2. Artemesia*

                Raccoons got all our outdoor fish too and herons got the koi in the pond next door when I was an adult.

          3. Artemesia*

            They are oddly creative. I loved turtles as a kid and had an elaborate terrarium in a wooden apple box with tall sides — little pond, forrest, the works. The dang things could climb up the corner and out of the box unless there was a tightly fitted screen lid.

              1. Dragon_dreamer*

                I disagree with that, some can have Opinions. Invertebrates, too, I help take care of the teaching specimens at my university. Especially the craba. Crabs have firm Opinions.

                1. Dragon_dreamer*

                  Some, anyway. I named one striped hermit crab “Idiot,” however. I have a photo somewhere from the time we gave him his weekly dinner of a live mussel. He promptly proceeded to get his leg stuck in the shell while eating. (Yes, he ended up fine.)

                2. Kal*

                  Agreed. Creatures of all sorts have individual personalities, you just have to adjust your idea of what that will look like instead of expecting human-like behavior out of non-human animals.

              2. SweetFancyPancakes*

                My sister and her family have a Red-eared Slider and he has lots of personality. If he feels he is being ignored (his giant aquarium is in their dining room) he will start slapping the top of the water until they go in and visit him. My bro-in-law is his favorite and when he comes home from work, the turtle will swim around frantically until he goes in to greet him.

          4. Twenty Points for the Copier*

            The family that had him at the time was very, very into animals so that doesn’t seem that likely. It is literally only now, 30-something years later that I wonder if they felt the poor turtle should go to a turtle rescue and not get prodded daily by a bunch of five year olds.

            Or possibly it died of old age since it had been around a while and the teacher didn’t think it was time for kids to learn that everything dies. Turtle mysteries of my youth that will probably never be solved…

        2. Barbara Eyiuche*

          My roommate took our turtle to the park, and came home saying it had escaped. I didn’t really believe her, because how fast can a turtle run, but maybe it was true, after reading the replies here.

      3. Clisby*

        Even then, though, I don’t remember students taking a turtle or fish or whatever home every weekend. Years ago, when I was a child, we had a couple of turtles and I don’t recall that they have to be fed every day.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          When I was a teacher the class pet was a fish – and I made sure to do all the work. I did let the class vote every year on a name for the fish though.

          1. Clisby*

            My kids both went to a Montessori school where students were expected to do some of the work of maintaining the classroom. They had to clean up, look after classroom pets, make sure classroom materials were all restored to the right place at the end of the day, etc. Getting the job of looking after classroom pets was highly sought after – but that did not include taking them home on weekends. I don’t remember any turtles, but I know in my daughter’s class there was a tarantula and a rat snake. And a bird – but it was on loan from one of the families, and they took it back over breaks.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              See, I was lucky in that no one at my school wanted to handle the snakes (or the blue-tongued skink, or the leopard gecko).

              Admittedly, the Jack Dempsey that would go for your fingers was more reasonable to avoid, and he came as a package deal with the rest of them… (I liked him anyways. He was such a bastard.)

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Yeah – Jack Dempsy Cichlids are very aggressive fish, as are Beta Fish. However, the most aggressive I’ve ever met was a Green Terror Cichlid that at her death of old age at 12 years was almost the size of a sheet of notebook paper.

                She was lucky she was so pretty, because I still have the scars she left – most cichlids do have teeth.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  Daniels the Jack Dempsey was about a foot long by the time I was taking care of him, about 15 years old, and had learned that if he bit your fingers enough people would drop the algae scrubber, which he would then steal and guard ferociously to ensure you stayed out of his tank. I was supplied with one of those wire mesh gloves that protect your hands from cooking knives to scrub his tank, and it still was not pleasant to get bit by him. He had pretty tough jaws!

                  I always wanted to see if I could convince him to bite a walnut and if so, if he’d break it. The teacher didn’t think that was a good idea though, so it never happened.

        2. Roseclef*

          Right? Turtles need a much more involved set-up than a gerbil or w/e. I can take a bunny in its hutch home in my car – it’s a whole different ballgame to be moving a water tank/thermometer/filter/heat lamp setup. And I can’t imagine the turtles are interested in any of that back-and-forth, either.

          I agree that this setup, as imagined, constitutes negligent and cruel animal husbandry, and a quick call to Animal Control or similar is the nonnegotiable first step to fixing this.

          1. Artemesia*

            The classic turtle bowl from my youth was a little island of plastic with rocks in it with a ramp and water in a dinner plate size plastic dish with sides. Pretty disastrous. My home made elaborate habitats were probably only marginally better, but most people had pet turtles in these awful plastic things. A decent turtle habitat is not going to be easily sent home.

            I’d in that work place probably find some good place to re-home the turtle, take it and report that it died and we disposed of it. What a horrible idea to inflict this on the workplace (and of course they stink too)

          2. Virginia Plain*

            The snail ran away…that is priceless! Roam free, Michelle, explore the wide blue yonder! Slowly!

            Seriously though, a snail as a class pet? Nearly as dull as the stick insects I vaguely remember from infant school. What is even the point of stick insects??!

          3. closetpuritan*

            Yes to turtles needing a more involved set-up than small mammal pets. Do they even know about the special UV lights that they need? Are people going to move the UV light home and re-set it up in their homes for the weekend?

            And a big yes to them not wanting the back and forth of moving around. Most animals don’t like disturbances and disruptions. On that note, I’m not convinced that we can know that they “are happier in their natural homes in the wild”–probably the ones that are from the wild are happier in the wild and the ones that are raised in captivity are happier in captivity, at least if they’ve got an adequate setup. But they’re probably happier in the wild than being shuttled around every weekend by people who aren’t all that invested in them and are just doing it to not make their superiors mad. I’m a lot more familiar with aquarium fish than turtles, but most carnivores/omnivores are fine to go a day or two without eating–a lot people even think one day a week of fasting is beneficial to them–so I suspect that this was a bit of misguided assumption that a turtle was similar to a gerbil or a rabbit. (That’s assuming they’re truly turtles and not tortoises, which are more vegetarian.)

        3. Lenora Rose*

          My elementary had turtles and fish in a set of terrariums in the library, not in any individual classroom. It was the job of grade 5 & 6 kids to take care of them. I genuinely don’t remember if it was all kids or just a select few, or all kids fed them but some cleaned, but I know I was one of the ones who had to clean the tanks on the regular. I didn’t mind the job, and I think having it done by consistent people made it less stress on the animals than classroom pets. I do wonder NOW what they did over breaks longer than a weekend, because it didn’t occur to me to wonder then.

      4. Sloan Kittering*

        I’m an animal foster-er and we got several bunnies, formerly classroom pets, coming into the shelter when Covid hit :(

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          And this is exactly why I always try to get someone from an animal rescue to give a presentation at the library in the lead-up to Easter. The basic script is “bunnies and ducklings are adorable, but here’s how long they live and how much care they need so maybe don’t get one as a present for a child in your life if you’re not prepared to provide that care.”

      5. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Wow, I think in my younger sister’s class they had gotten rid of class animals, so they had a special stuffed animal and every kid got it for one weekend and you were supposed to take pictures of yourself with the stuffed animal, write a story about what you did and where you went. Much MUCH better for all the actual animals in the world, but still fun for the kiddos.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I know someone who gave a stuffed Super Grover toy to the “Llama Groomer Of The Month” and whoever got it that month was supposed to take photos of themselves with it. This was in a workplace, not a school.

        2. SunnyGirl*

          Much better but I hated that too, because then I had to take pictures and then take time out of my week or weekend to get those pics printed and then glued into the book. One parent, I noticed, didn’t bother with the pics and had her kid draw it instead. I know her budget was meagre back then and running around getting pictures made for school project for Grade 1 was not happening.

        3. Lady Glittersparkles*

          I saw that on an episode of Bluey. I thought it was a great idea in lieu of the classroom pet that gets shuffled from house to house. (Yes I have small children and Bluey is one of the few kid shows I like to watch with them!)

          1. Ocean of Ramen*

            I’m very strict on screen time/TV but Bluey is the exception. It’s such a cute show! We watch it as a family.

      6. Sara*

        My brother ‘won’ the 4th grade class guinea pig for the summer (a whole summer!) and then when the classes started back up, there was a kid that was allergic to them so we had to keep it for half the school year as well until the teacher could find someone to take it. As a family, we still talk about the terrible guinea pig and how much it smelled. And that our cat just sat and watched it all day, probably plotting ways to kill it.

        That teacher also had a turtle and a couple other animals you could bring home, which is insane. I think we got the turtle for the weekend as well, which after reading this is crazy they let us have.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          A friend of the family growing up got to take the class gerbils home for the summer, and discovered that they were not in fact two lady gerbils, but a lady and a gentlemen, and had made more gerbils. I don’t know how it all spiraled out of control after that, but that the family still had a lot of trouble determining gerbil ladies and gentleman, and when we went to visit one year there was an entire room filled with gerbil cages filled with gerbils. The father was a Buddhist, and refused to sell the gerbil babies to the pet store out of fear they would feed them to snakes, so they just kept their ever growing collection of gerbils. As a kid, it made total sense to me, but as an adult I look back at that story with a giant WTF??? and occasionally think about calling them to ask what their rational was behind it all.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            There was a memoir I read a while back written by someone whose father intentionally bred and sold gerbils for animal testing. He managed to breed them in such a way that a lot would have seizures, so he sold them in the hopes they would help scientists with epilepsy or Parkinsons. But, as I recall, the whole operation started as a lark in the family basement.

          2. Hotdog not dog*

            We ended up with more hamsters than anyone could ever need, same problem. Especially since they were the fluffy kind, it was just about impossible to figure out what equipment each one was packing. We ended up giving most away, and the ones left were sentenced to solitary confinement.

          3. EvilQueenRegina*

            That makes me think a bit of when my uncle and aunt had guinea pigs – they had 2, the obvious happened, and they ended up with about 52. The garden was full of hutches and they ended up with 4 guinea pigs in the kitchen because there was no more room left. They ran out of inspiration for names. My uncle was reluctant to let any of them go because he wanted to be able to keep in touch with them all, but most people he knew didn’t actually want a guinea pig. He was eventually persuaded to take half of them to a sanctuary somewhere. It reached the point that every time he went on holiday he asked not to be given updates from the person who looked after them because they’d always send him a text saying “one of the guinea pigs has died”. Uncle refused to get them fixed because he thought “it changed their little characters”.

            1. ceiswyn*

              But… he didn’t even need to get them fixed. He just needed to keep them in single-sex accommodation O.o With guinea pigs you can keep males together, and females together, and that’s all fine…

          4. Mannequin*

            Feeder rats/mice are much less expensive than gerbils, for those who have snakes or other reptiles that feed on rodents.

            Besides which, even if they did go to be snake food…snakes don’t have any other options than being carnivores? It’s not like you can feed them carrot sticks instead or something? Even vegetarians/Buddhists should surely understand that.

        2. Carol the happy elf*

          My son, age six, volunteered eagerly to take the guinea pig home over Christmas. Thank goodness for pine scented air freshener. I also changed his straw/chips stuff with something that had chlorophyll. Gave the squeaky little thing a bath, and he rolled in the chlorophyll chips.
          That dyed him bright green. I called the teacher, who laughed and told me to leave him that way. First day back, she put a red ribbon on him and told the class that Santa Claus had turned him Christmas colors.

      7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – I always refused to take home the class pet when I was in elementary school.

        My answer was always that’s not fair to my pets at home (who had health issues – which was why they were our pets).

        1. UKDancer*

          I also refused to take the school hamsters mainly because I didnt much like animals. I could never really see the appeal especially given you had to clean the cage.

      8. SunnyGirl*

        That was a thing for my kids’ school, thru to grade 6 actually, and it was also NOT an option for my kids. Tiny place, no space for a cage/aquarium/terrarium for gerbils, hamsters or guinea pigs. (Instead, there were “gerbil sleepovers at her friend’s house who did have the space.)

      9. Lizy*

        WHAT???? Students… have to take the class animal home on breaks???? I seriously have never heard of this.

        I have a close friend who’s a preschool teacher. They have a lizard as a class pet, but SHE is the one who takes care of it on breaks (and during COVID, as someone mentioned below). It doesn’t go to random students’ homes where the parent may or may not be able and willing to take care of it. That’s… nuts.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh it’s not really done anymore. Most of us talking about it were probably the kids (or parents) back in the 70s or 80s when taking the class pet home was a big thing. From my experience this started to really taper off in the late 90s.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Mine were in elementary school in the late 90s – first half of the 00s. There were still some pets. I mentioned it above that we once got the class snail for the summer. I recall there being a classroom guinea pig (that thankfully did not come home with any of my children).

        2. SunnyGirl*

          I think in my kids’ school it was more of a “Who wants to take Timmy the Gerbil home?” But not sure what would have happened it if was a global “No one does.”

        3. Koala dreams*

          I thought the office turtles were bad enough, then I started to read the stories about classroom pets. That’s just… I don’t have words. How do people come up with these ideas?!

      10. Castaspella*

        My sister brought home the class hamster for the Easter holidays when she was in primary school. It got out of its cage and was half way up the stairs as my mother was coming down. Poor hamster never saw her coming…. Needless to say that was the last time our family was ever asked to look after so much as a houseplant.

    2. North Wind*

      This sounds like something an elementary school teacher would have done with their class 30-40 years ago.

      1. Clisby*

        We once brought hermit crabs home over a winter or spring break – definitely not as long as a summer break. But hermit crabs are … pretty easy to deal with.

      1. mystiknitter*

        My two sons had the same beloved third grade teacher whose class pet was a tarantula. Sigh. Everyone ‘got’ to take a turn….

    3. Do mutual aid*

      A good turtle set up is pretty automated. Lights on a timer, filter and water heater always on, etc. Baby turtles are delicate but if it’s more than 6 months old, then you probably could get a weekend food block and a good leaf of Romain lettuce, drop it in the tank on Friday, and leave it alone each weekend. It would be better for the turtle then moving it since they are so easily stressed by change. All of this heavily depends on the species tho.

    4. Paul Pearson*

      I’m stunned at the new and creative ways bosses find to be completely out of their fecking mind. I kind of want to award them points for creativity

    5. Momma Bear*

      Ugh. The bottom line is that the turtles are not going to build morale and I would absolutely not sign up to take care of them or do anything for/with them. If the boss asked me to take a turtle home or pointed out that I hadn’t, I would suggest that the boss take the turtle home, as I was not going to for Reasons. I strongly dislike it when people make their problem your problem.

        1. JayemGriffin*

          Really should’ve already learned not to drink anything while reading this comments section…

        2. AGD*

          I just cracked up. It’s like how you can sing the words “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the chorus of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The first thing that popped into my mind was “Turtles all the way down.”
        I knew I wouldn’t be the only Discworld fan here.

        1. Artemesia*

          And the picture the ‘turtles all the way down’ meme evokes in me, it Seuss’s illustration of Yertle the Turtle king of all he can see.

    1. CatCat*

      Right? I’d encourage any non-exempt staff to ask matter-of-factly how they should log turtle care on their time sheet.

    2. Heidi*

      I don’t think that the OP mentioned if the office was going to pay for food and supplies for the turtles. Are the employees supposed to pay for this out of their salaries while they are keeping the turtles in their homes?

      Also, this boss sounds awful and I’d be looking for new employment. Just saying.

      1. ophelia*

        Also, like, are they supposed to have separate terrariums/tanks at home and at work? Who buys those? What kind of carrier is the organization providing for turtle transit? What about for staff who commute by train/bus? (I am just imagining commuting on the subway, picking up the kids from daycare, and walking home on a friday with all of *their* stuff and then also have to somehow carry? a turtle? in a case?? while doing it.)

        1. RosyGlasses*

          bwhahahaha – my dog is confused as to why I’m guffawing at my desk. Thank you for that iphone :P

    1. Mockingjay*

      I keep trying to chalk these things up to the worldwide stress we’re all under…but this reversion to grade-school comfort saddens me.

      (Hmm. A quick google shows that apparently lots of people think turtles are cheerful.)

  1. The Original K.*

    I saw an article on social media about some offices getting bees as a way to entice people back. Some companies will do anything except give employees what they actually want or need.

    A turtle. Give me a damn break.

      1. Ed*

        my office had bees pre-pandemic. its kind of a nature thing in cities, lots of the buildings have gardens or bees up on the roofs. we never see them. there’s a beekeeper who looks after them. sometimes we got honey in the office from our bees. didn’t even know they were there until we got honey actually. we don’t have access to the rooftop.

        this article from the uk talks a bit about it https://www.jll.ca/en/trends-and-insights/cities/why-the-rooftops-are-alive-with-the-buzz-of-bees

        1. LC*

          My office building has bees too. It’s a 30+ story building in the downtown of a large city, so there are a bazillion tenants, but it’s the actual building that does the bees. There’s a company that takes care of them, they’re supposedly on a ledge that I can see but can’t access, but those common areas are closed with covid and I’m new here.

          I’m allergic to bees and it freaked me the eff out when I saw this initially, but the this is exclusively what the company does and they seem to know what they’re doing, I don’t need to ever be actually around the bees and it’s not like they’re just swarming at street level, plus honeybees are good for, ya know, life on earth. So, gets an overall shrug from me.

          I can’t imagine this being used as a “perk” (?!?) to entice employees back to the office like The Original K. has seen though, that seems bizarre.

          1. Jude*

            Our new office that we’re meant to be moving into in a couple of weeks has bees on the roof. Except its only about 6 floors high. They showed us the video as part of their ‘yay let’s get excited to go back to the office after 18 months working from home!’ spiel.

            I’ve never been so glad I keep my webcam off, like, you’re trying to tempt me out of my comfy pyjamas by telling me I’ll be surrounded by bees whenever I step outside? Great sell.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yeah. Bees are great. We would not be able to eat without them. However, they are NOT pets and need to be properly cared for. Not to mention the danger to people who are allergic. This is just such a stupid idea.

        1. quill*

          Bees are livestock and have to be tended properly! You gotta be your own veterinarian as well, making sure they don’t have mites, etc…

          1. Jonaessa*

            Fun fact: Bees can be sent through the U.S. mail.

            Fun story: I was waiting in line at the post office to collect the mail we had on hold since our office was closed at the beginning of the pandemic. (Bills still have to get paid.) A clerk came out and asked a customer, “Are these the bees?” Cue my look of bewilderment. Then the customer replied, “No, those are not them.” Cue my look of absolute astonishment! Wait. So someone sent you bees through the mail and the package the clerk brought out wasn’t even them?!? How many bees are they delivering back there?!?! So I did what any Nosy Rosy would do and went up to ask about this special delivery, at a six-foot distance, of course. Once he received the package, the customer was kind enough to show me how they are packaged to be shipped through the mail, and he was very proud to show me the queen and tell me how she would acclimate herself to the new environment. (Fortunately, I was dressed appropriately.) It totally blew my mind that everyone was so nonchalant about bee shipping, like everyone knew. Duh. I mean, I knew you could ship potatoes and flip-flops, but bees were a new one for me. I told anyone and everyone who would listen because I thought it was so amazing.

      3. Monday Monday*

        I came to say this!!!!
        I used to keep aquariums at home and found out I was severely allergic to one of the foods I fed them — something very common and basic you can get in any pet store. Just someone opening the container in the same room would cause a major reaction and I would have to immediately jump in the shower and take meds. Ever have hives on your eyeball??!?! I don’t recommend it.

        I would think the OP could use this argument at least to get out of this. But Alison’s advice about the animal rescue is genius!

      4. Omnivalent*

        Greenwashing. The company gets to brag about how it’s helping to “save the bees” (they’re not). There are companies that can be hired to install and maintain the bees, paint the hives with the company logo/colors, and bottle the honey with a custom label to sell to employees or customers.

        At least nobody has to take the bees home.

        1. PT*

          How is this any different than someone who installs a fishtank in the lobby or a koi pond in the courtyard and hires a company to maintain it, though? This is pretty common.

          1. Omnivalent*

            The difference is that nobody claims that they put a fishtank in the lobby to “save the fish”, or that paying someone to maintain the koi pond is funding critical research on protecting marine life.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            As others pointed out above, the potential for allergies makes bees much higher risk than a pond.

      5. Anax*

        Honestly, I think it’s the same reason tech companies have “on site perks” like game rooms, laundry, and catering – “we can give you everything you would have at home, so why would you EVER LEAVE?”

        Anything like that is a huge red flag for me; I’m in IT, so … everyone knows the “cool” companies are the ones that work their employees to the bone.

      6. RagingADHD*

        They aren’t literally *in* the office. They are off in an outdoor space or on the roof where people who are phobic or allergic wouldn’t have any reason to go anyway.

        Many places also have beekeeping associations or an agricultural extension service who will place the hive and come every couple of weeks to tend it.

        Bees that are “queenright” (have a healthy queen) are very docile and take no interest in humans who aren’t messing with the hive. We have a hive in the backyard and like to sit and watch them come and go. For folks who don’t have special concerns, it can be very soothing, like watching water.

        1. pandop*

          We have bee hives in several places on campus, but we also have a pretty green campus generally, considering we are a city centre university. So they just fit in with the other flora and fauna around the place.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Notre Dame in Paris had bees on the roof before the fire. The beekeeper reported they survived & continued to thrive after being relocated. (Buckfast Abbey bees if anyone but me cares.)

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          I don’t really know anything about bees, but it makes sense to me that there’d be a specific species who presumably also make the honey that goes in Buckfast Tonic Wine (everyone’s favourite disclaimer: the use of the word tonic is not meant to imply medicinal properties)

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I worked at an office that was considering bringing in a petting zoo for a Friday. But Leadership realized that morale was so low that even a zoo of cute critters wouldn’t make a difference. At least they acknowledged how bad things were and knew they would have to make huge progress to turn things around.
      Turtles. Eeesh. There are a dozen of bad ideas that are better than that one.

      1. Coenobita*

        Yeah, I mean, one time an animal rescue brought a van full of adoptable dogs to the little park by my office, and that was a great day. But I think that’s probably the maximum level of animal-related morale building appropriate for (near) the workplace!

    2. CatCat*

      Usually we are referencing metaphorical bees when we tell folks their bad workplace is full of bees. But now it can be literal!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Unless you work at a farm or living museum… No.

        I do love that my CSA sells honey from bees that live on the farm & pollinate the crops. (They belong to a beekeeper friend of the farmer, so they visiting bees, I guess.)

        1. quill*

          Yeah, A TRAINED BEEKEEPER takes care of the bees at museum and zoo installations of hives! Not some dude from accounting who doesn’t know how to find the queen.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          Yeah. My town has at least two local beekeepers who sell honey and honey products and it feels so nice to get thoroughly locally made stuff. They also have a wonderfully distinct taste.

      2. Retro*

        Honestly there’s bound to be at least one company out there who would do it for that reason. “We look dysfunctional, and maybe we are, but in this family, dysfunction works! Because we’re special! Look at us being quirky!”

    3. Apocalypse How*

      Bees?!? How on G-d’s green earth would bees get people to come BACK to the office? I have a phobia of bees, so that would ensure I either work from home permanently or quit.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Same here – I can’t imagine an idea better designed to keep me away from that office forever. Better benefits, comp days, or bonuses are so much better and more reasonable than gimmicks.

      2. Elenna*

        Yeah, I also have a (mild, fortunately) phobia and this would do the exact opposite of enticing me to come in! Like, bees are great, pollination is great, I love honey, but I would like to appreciate them from a safe faraway distance thank you very much.

    4. Princess Deviant*

      This would make me sick to my stomach. I have a phobia of bees and any other buzzing insect actually.
      Who the hell thinks up these ideas? I’m so mad!

    5. londonedit*

      There have been beehives on the rooftops of buildings in London for several years now – Fortnum & Mason have beehives in the city to make their own honey, and several hotels (including the Ritz!) have done it too. The bees have a quieter and less interrupted route to their favourite feeding places, and they don’t disturb anyone. But I suppose there’s a difference between that and actually trying to put beehives in places where people will be working.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        I saw an article recently saying there were too many beehives in London now and some beekeepers are moving them out of the city. There isn’t enough nectar to sustain the current population and they are detrimental to the wild bee population because they are taking all the food.

    6. Nanani*

      “The office is full of bees” is NOT an enticement! Are they also decorating the meeting room with red flags? You know, because colour theory says red has positive associations.

    7. HoHumDrum*

      This enrages me on behalf of the workers, but also IMO getting someone an animal when they don’t have the drive/time/resources/interest/expertise to provide enthusiastic and loving care for the animals lifespan is animal abuse. There is just no way random office workers who never asked for this are gonna be able to give bees or turtles the high quality care they deserve.

    8. Girasol*

      I’m allergic and I shiver every time I read about this. I don’t object to an arrangement in a city where a beekeeper uses a company’s roof for his hives. Bees are important and somewhat endangered. But the thought that company employees should see them as an office perk and be interacting with them…ughh.

    9. Ladybugger*

      BEES!!! I’m not even allergic but I would lose my shit if my company GOT BEES at a WORKPLACE.

      BEES. I’m sorry that’s even weirder than turtles.

    10. Anon100*

      I’m all for urban beehives – then again, the first place I worked for that had beehives on the roof was the USDA so it made sense.

    11. Mami21*

      My old office also had bees!

      Not on purpose, though, a swarm just set up shop in the ceiling one day.

    12. nnn*

      My insectphobia and I would be look for a new job so fast!!

      I mean, I understand the role of pollinators in the ecosystem, I even (hypocritically) enjoy honey myself, but deliberately introducing (stinging!) insects into what is supposed to be an insect-free office environment is a hard no!

    13. Jessi Bustamante*

      “Some companies will do anything except give employees what they actually want or need.”

      This is what I’m noticing more and more as people come back from remote work, etc. A company I know of is trying to encourage people to embrace the benefits of working in the office together and made a playlist on Spotify apparently instead of offering any flexibility with teleworking.

    1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      But benefits, raises, promotions, generous vacation and sick-leave time cost the company more than getting a turtle whose care you then foist off on your hapless employees! And, since you’re unwilling to hear “no” or acknowledge that sometimes people push back for good reason, you can solve the office morale problem by getting them an unwanted, disease-spreading pet! How DARE they be ungrateful for THAT?

    2. Maglev to Crazytown*

      What about a free bottle baby kitten from work?

      Had a litter of four ferals removed from the attic crawl space directly above my desk last week. After listening to them cry for 2.5 hours before maintenance arrived, I think I trauma bonded, and ended up with one.

      Honestly, best thing I’ve gotten out of my work environment in years now.

      1. Kal*

        I have to say that I feel bad for those poor babies going through that, and then it sounds like they got ripped apart from each other right after. Sounds like they’ve had a lot of trauma in their short lives. Hope their lives can get better now.

  2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    I once interviewed at a place where they had a company dog (German Shepherd, to be precise). The CEO explained to me employees were expected to take turns taking care of him, taking him for a walk, serving his food and everything.
    I’m a cat person. Cats know it, dogs too. I love to think the he voted for me not to be hired, considering his aggressive welcome.

    1. UKDancer*

      That’s ridiculous. I like dogs but I like breathing better and prefer to avoid a major allergic reaction. No way on earth would I be a good person to look after a dog.

      Obviously not a place where people with allergies can feel safe.

      1. nothing rhymes with purple*

        There are some spectacular stories in the archives here about interactions between workers with dog allergies and dog owners who love dogs too much to believe in allergies.

    2. Don't Remember*

      My husband worked at a company that had an office cat and a snake, but it was a pet supply warehouse. The cat was abandoned in the parking lot. As for the snake, an employee chose to bring in and take care of it himself.

      The cat stayed there over the weekends or went home with someone who voluntarily took it on occasion. No one was obligated and cats are a bit more self sufficient than most animals.

      1. Don't Remember*

        To add: I assume no one in the office was allergic or they wouldn’t have allowed it. I can’t say for sure though.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        In a pet supply company an office pet makes sense. I also like that those were both animals that were self-sufficient enough to stay on their own for a weekend.

        (I am assuming there was automation and timers for the snake’s terrarium to turn lights and misters if needed on and off.)

      3. JB*

        Cats can be a bonus in a warehouse as they provide low-cost ongoing pest control, and it’s more open-air than your usual, say, office. That’s one reason a lot of shops also have a shop cat.

        It does mean they’ll miss out on employees that are very allergic (or, I suppose, afraid of cats) so it’s a cost the business needs to weigh.

        1. Cat and dog fosterer*

          Pet supply companies have endless bags of food, which definitely needs pest control. It doesn’t have to be a cat, but it’s the obvious option.

        2. R2-beep-boo*

          I work for a food processor and have seen the FDA warning letters that effectively state “No, Llama Feed Manufacturer, you absolutely cannot feed a ‘warehouse cat’ and count that as pest control.” But maybe in other applications, sure.

          1. WS*

            You can’t count a cat as a substitute for legally required pest control, but you can have one doing pest control nonetheless!

    3. AnonTech*

      Wait. Converse, was this in Europe a number of years ago, and did the company’s name start with a G? Because that’s my company!!

    4. Gracely*

      A German shepherd literally bit off one of my fingers when I was a child (I was walking my own dog, and the off-leash German shepherd attacked us).

      I actually don’t hold a grudge against dogs in general, but it definitely made me more of a cat person. I wouldn’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to have pets in their workplace, for whatever reason. I definitely would nope the fuck out of a situation where I was expected to take care of the office dog.

      Like, just let people WFH if you think they need a pet in their office.

    5. Filosofickle*

      Hey, I worked in a place with a company German Shepherd! The dog was originally housed in my department, in the office of the owner (of both the dog and the company) who was frequently OOO so the care fell to us. Worse, she was a rescue dog with separation anxiety. But our little department did not want to be responsible for the dog and take her on walks, much less clean up the dog’s vomit when she spun herself in anxiety circles. Eventually the dog was relocated to another department that actually wanted to care for her. There was so much grumbling and side-eyeing about our awfulness but I DGAF.

    6. BuildMeUp*

      Iirc German Shepherds are fairly active and smart dogs that need a good amount of exercise and stimulation. This sounds like a bad situation for employees and for that poor dog!

    7. Lacey*

      That’s wild! I’ve interviewed a couple of places that had office dogs, but they also had clear owners and staff weren’t expected to care for them.

    8. Mockingjay*

      That poor dog! Dear god, changing caregivers all the time is absolutely the worst thing for that type of dog. GSDs need a ton of stable structure, attention, and training. (We have GSD mix rescues. They do very well because Hubby and I are adamant about maintaining stable boundaries for them. These dogs are NOT for the uninformed owner or caregiver.)

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      There is a business I use that has a large German Shepherd as a company dog. But it’s a greenhouse / nursery, so that seems fine to me.

      (But then she’s pretty awesome, too.)

    10. a developer*

      We have an “office dog” but in actuality he belongs to one of the employees, she just brings him in when she comes to work. It works fairly well in that the whole office adores him, and he also likes everyone in the office.

      I know allergies could be a concern, but i’m pretty sure most of the office now considers the dog the most important employee there, including the bosses. When it came down to a conflict between the dog and an employee, the employee would 100% lose.

      It’s a smaller company, if that matters.

      1. Rosemary*

        Back when we went to the office, my dog came with me almost every day. He for sure was the most important employee there! If I happened to come in without him, the first thing everyone asked was “where is [dog]?!”

      2. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

        That an allergic employee would get forced out in favor of the dog is not actually an unqualified good.

  3. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    … I cant even.

    Like, I have snails in my office, but /I/ put them there. They’re in a cute closed aquarium! I don’t have to feed them! They are small! I could leave for a week and they would be okay!

    But FORCING a pet on you? Who covers the care costs? Food? What about a vet trip? I’m betting the company didn’t think about that. I think Allison is right and you should contract some sort of animal society.

    … wow.

    1. Teapot Librarian*

      Yes, I have an aquatic friend that I keep in my office, too, but like you, I put them there! (It was a little bit of a rough transition when I brought them home in a McDonald’s soda cup on March 13 and then had to figure out how my feline friends would treat them, but all has been okay.)

      An office TURTLE?!? Plus, turtles have pretty long lifespans, at least if they’re taken care of appropriately. Who is handling its vet bills?

      1. Need More Sunshine*

        I want to hear about the snail set up too! I love snails and now am seriously considering getting some for my office…

        1. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

          Ahahah! So, I work for a University’s biology department (so its a bit less weird than just having snails in a cube farm…), and we were trying to find a way to grow an aquatic plant we needed for a lab, since it would be much easier than buying it every year. So, I set up a small aquarium in my office with soil from our greenhouse and aged water.

          HOWEVER, plants need nitrogen to grow right? So one of our professors does research on snails, and I asked if she could give me some of her guaranteed parasite free snails so they could help with the nitrogen cycle (aka… snail poop is good for plants).

          And its kinda blossomed from there. I’ve named the snails, and everyone is happy. :)

    2. Forkeater*

      It’s funny, I like almost all creatures with six legs or fewer, but I’m mildly snail phobic after reading a couple of Patricia Highsmith short stories. I don’t if animals ever really belong in the office.

    3. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Yes yes yes yes.

      This is one giant WHAT THE…!?

      I have cats that would happily devour the Company Turtle. I have toddlers that would happily use the Company Turtle as a teether and contract salmonella. Who on EARTH thinks an involuntary pet is a morale builder??

      This is so many failures-to-think-it-through rolled into one, I don’t even know where to start.

    4. All the words*

      How many of these office workers would even recognize if the turtle was in distress and needed a vet?

      To me this boss’ play is so morally wrong. Here’s a living creature for you all to pass around like it’s a pet rock. None of you probably know how to care for it, or have a set up to do so at home, but that’s exactly what you’ll all be doing. I guarantee these particular turtles won’t have a happy, long life.

      I’d have animal welfare on this a.s.a.p.

      1. Observer*

        How many of these office workers would even recognize if the turtle was in distress and needed a vet?

        I’d be willing to bet that the answer is ZERO – and that includes the boss. Because if he did understand this much he’d understand HOW BAD this idea is.

      2. JB*

        Even many people who WANT a turtle don’t know how to take care of one properly. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, spread by chain pet stores and exotic animal suppliers who want to convince you that anything small enough to fit in a tank is ‘cheap and easy’ to take care of.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. I want a turtle. Have been researching literally for YEARS what it takes to care for one. Still not ready because every bit of research shows how much work it is.

        2. A Feast of Fools*

          An ex-BF once gave me a small turtle that he’d caught in the canal behind his house in Florida. I was living in Idaho at the time. I did the best I could, but the turtle ate all my fish in the tank. I got a separate tank, but had trouble creating the right balance between water and dry land and heat.

          I moved to a different state (closer to ex-BF) and, after a few months, truly realized what a terrible turtle parent I am. Thankfully, I was able to drive it back to Florida and release it in the exact spot where ex-BF first found it.

          Having an office turtle that gets passed around and receives haphazard care is animal cruelty.

        3. Tupac Coachella*

          This is exactly what I thought. Turtles are super cute and wouldn’t mind having one (my vet’s office has a few, and I love checking them out when we go in), but I know that ALL animals have specific needs. I have no idea how to properly take care of a turtle and don’t really have the time or extra cash to put into learning, so I don’t have a turtle. I really like animals, and would enjoy an office pet immensely, but not at the expense of the animal’s happiness and safety, and definitely not if my coworkers with no interest or straight up objection to the pet were expected to help care for it.

      3. Anomalous*

        And good luck finding an appropriate vet. Care of birds, reptiles, and other “exotics” is pretty specialized, and not all vets have the knowledge or desire. Plus, most vets have been very busy, and those with the knowledge and desire may not have the time.

    5. library-adjacent*

      I mean, I’ve worked in places where there was a shop cat or dog- it’s less weird in places like warehouses and fabrication shops: these would be animals that showed up as strays and stuck around– sometimes there would be a person who was officially responsible for the animal (generally the owner of the business), but these were oddball workplaces to start with. Sometimes there would be a vague sense that the dog/cat provided security and/or pest control, but it was also often the case that the pet lived on site and whoever showed up first in the morning would be the person to open the can of dog food. Sometimes people would embrace animal care responsibilities but it was never actually part of someone’s job description and there definitely wasn’t an expectation that random people would take on work or financial responsibility related to the animals (all of the shop dogs/cats I’ve known have had rich, fulfilling lives with lots of devoted friends and would usually end up spending their senior years as a beloved family pet). This turtle business is a whole other thing, though!

    6. Freddybeans*

      Hey, I had snails in my office, too! When I was laid off, they came home with me. You wouldn’t expect snails to be a lot of fun, but they are!

      1. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

        I love when one of them is on leaf, goes a bit too far, and falls off. Its a very cute slow decent to the bottom of the tank.

    7. Charlief*

      As a FYI I have a severe phobia of slugs and snails and this would do me in. Like I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the snail/ if I didn’t notice it was there and then saw it I would scream (involuntary reaction). Please make sure that people know you have snails in your office if they are meeting there and be willing to go somewhere else if they need to.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I had a teacher bring in a baby snapping turtle as the “class pet” which she was keeping in a mason jar. Just a jar of water with air holes poked in it.

        I confess- I stole it. Kept it in my pocket the whole day and showed it to my mom when she took us home. He was released and I hope he is currently living a lovely and happy life not being in a mason jar.

        I would absolutely steal this turtle before the day was out. Don’t know how, but I would.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Never fear, my dad was intensely proud of me and I got Victory Ice Cream when he learned about it.

    1. Clorinda*

      I am sitting my daughter’s pets while she’s at college. Reptiles have NEEDS. They are not easy pets.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Reptiles are a humongous PITA. People think they’re easy because they don’t emote much. They are, in fact, colossal divas, for the most part.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          One of my snakes is THE MOST DRAMATIC EVER and will refuse to eat sometimes at random, always poops in his water, has managed to escape his tank once after the cat sat on it and knocked the screen the slightest bit askew….(corn snakes are born escape artists)…. he’s a jerksnake, but I love him. But then I had WANTED corns since I was 13 and got them at 30 after years and YEARS of research and consideration.

          My sister has a lot of reptiles and their health can go downhill so fast, and it is hard to recognize. She just lost her Savannah Monitor of nearly 10 years to some illness she never saw until too late. It’s a shock how finicky reptiles are. They are not pet rocks.

          1. ophelia*

            Yep. My daughter’s kindergarten class had a corn snake, BUT it was the *teacher’s* snake, kids participating in snake care was a) voluntary, b) closely supervised, and c) only done in the classroom.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – the only environment even remotely in the same realm of work to keep up as a reptile terrarium is to successfully keep a salt water aquarium (even before you add live corals). Just because they don’t snuggle or otherwise emote doesn’t mean they don’t have major care needs.

      2. Anax*

        And heck, so many people already have cats, maybe including OP – which can’t interact safely with reptiles, at all, full stop. Cat saliva is toxic to reptiles (and… most other animals), and salmonella can be deadly to cats.

        I’m sure there are ways to keep them separate safely – and I’m also betting that underpaid employees are low on space and energy to do so safely, and that the company-provided turtle accommodations won’t deter a curious kitty. (ARE there any company-provided turtle accommodations, or are the poor things just supposed to wander the cubicle floors?)

        I mean, heck, one of our cats opens sealed Amazon packages for fun, an aquarium is going to be zero deterrence. Which is why we don’t have reptiles.

        1. Ana Gram*

          This is a really interesting fact. I had no idea.

          And, yeah, cats will get into anything. I woke up once to my cat munching on frozen shrimp in my bed. He’d gone into the freezer, selected a bag of frozen shrimp, dragged the bag upstairs, into the bedroom, and onto the bed, and selected a nice little shrimp to lick and chew. He was diabolical.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            OMG, your cat is a genius!! A diabolical genius, obviously, but a genius nonetheless. How did he even get the freezer open???

            1. Ana Gram*

              I don’t know but my suspicion is that he got on top on the fridge and pushed the freezer door open from the top. He liked to hang out on top of the fridge and was always curious about what I was hiding in there but I never thought he’d get inside!

          2. Jean*

            I’m lol-ing heartily at the image of this. I have 2 cats, and I could see both of them doing this if they could figure out how to get into my freezer.

          3. Anax*

            Yeah, cat saliva has a lot of bacteria even compared to other animals, and they groom with their saliva so it’s… everywhere. One of the reasons they can be such hazards to wildlife; a casual swipe or knead or nibble can lead to sepsis. (And dose matters, so while a human will normally be fine, a small animal is likely to have a much harder time.)

            And oh, jeez, what a menace. I can imagine ours doing that too. It’s a good thing they’re cute!

        2. PT*

          The first time I set up my fishtank after I got my cat, she was a kitten, and I put a sticky mat on every surface around it to deter jumping. The shelf next to it, the lid of the filter, the lid of the fishtank, were all covered in sticky mat. She lost interest pretty quickly.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – cats are incredible at what they can manage (which is part of why I don’t currently have cats – it wouldn’t be fair to my fish). My brother has a cat that has destroyed three vacuum cleaners without hurting himself at all.

        4. Dawbs*

          Right? No keeping them out.
          I own a cat who kept getting into the potentially hazardous part of the basement- some home improvements we were working on had sruff we wanted to leave accessible.

          So we put in a door…that he learned to open so we added a hook and eye that he also learned to open.
          Improved the door and….
          He climbed into the drop ceiling in the safe side and onto ductwork to get into the dangerous side. Where he left the duct and fell through and then was trapped on that side.

          We gave up and removed the hazards.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Agreed. I am on Team Save the Turtles and also on Team OP Get Out of There ASAP. I would think that the Board of this non-profit might like to know that the ED is giving away turtles (and expecting already overworked employees to care for them and take time away from, you know, their actual jobs, wtf), but it would depend entirely on what kind of Board it is. Some Boards wouldn’t care whatsoever, and a Board of an org that overworks and underpays its employees is more likely to be that kind of Board. Still, I really wonder what other kinds of foibles this ED has, aside from Turtlegate, needing to be validated all the time, and putting employees on the spot. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg of her many many faults. OP, this place is full of bees and I hope we see an update from you soon on your new job.

      And am I the only one who wonders why in the world she choose *turtles* of all animals and not the more common hamster or guinea pig? Not that I would condone either of those animals (or any animals) in this situation, but really…turtles????

      1. Red 5*

        I’m assuming there’s a social media tend behind the idea, but last I heard the influencer “bad idea pet” of the moment was hedgehogs.

  4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I had to double check to make sure I had actually taken my meds today after reading this. For a moment I was sure I hadn’t.

    Wow.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Funny thing is, it’s not hyperbole, I honestly wondered if my schizophrenia was acting up for a second! All good now, although I just have nothing beyond a Spock quizzical look to give as advice!

        1. Temperance*

          Oh I just wanted to be clear – I thought that the turtle situation was the weirdest thing ever! I can absolutely see how it might come off as a hallucination. (I recalled your schizophrenia dx from previous comments.)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Haha, no worries mate :) I think this letter is going right up alongside the Mayan shaman and the boss who pees in the sink as my ‘wtf’ favourites.

            1. Batty Twerp*

              I think I missed the Mayan shaman. But if its “office turtle” level weirdness, I might have to save it for a less busy day when I can truly enjoy it.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Much older post and…it’s weirder. Like ‘even off my meds I couldn’t come up with anything this bonkers’ level.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed Keymaster – it’s so weird it seems like a fever dream to read.

      Sadly – only the poor animals and employees will suffer, and the misguided and needy ED will continue to sow her seeds of chaos.

    2. Redd*

      I felt similar. I haven’t had a partial seizure in months but I thought I must be having one when I read this mess.

  5. CatPerson*

    “Oh I can’t, I’m afraid of turtles.”
    “Oh I can’t, my cat would eat the turtle.”
    “Turtles are a delicacy in my culture. Would you like to try my homemade turtle soup?”

    The possibilities are endless. Let’s have some fun with this.

    1. Lady Ann*

      My cats would definitely find the turtle to be an interesting culinary challenge. No small animal is safe in my house.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think mine are too dumb to catch their own food (see the mouse that I had to catch and put outside while they lazed about in the same room), but we do not have small animals or fish in our home because we have two cats. At minimum, the smarter cat would stress the turtle out stalking it (or glaring through the aquarium glass).

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Just give Boss a copy of the Judy Blume book Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing. For anyone not familiar with the Superfudge books, Fudge (aged about 2 at the time I think) swallows Peter’s pet turtle.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Thinking about it, Dribble was another example of inappropriate turtle giving. As I remember, Peter won that turtle as a prize at a birthday party and Mrs Hatcher wasn’t thrilled when he brought him home.

      1. AGD*

        I’ve been thinking of this all the way down the thread but couldn’t remember which Judy Blume book it came from!

      1. Happy Lurker*

        True story!
        Brought young son out to get a fish. He fell in love with the turtle. He tried to feed it the first day and it pinched his finger. I fed it from that day forward. It grew quite a bit, we purchased a couple larger aquariums. I caught the turtle eating the rocks in the bottom of the aquarium. It passed a few weeks later, we found it before the kids woke up. We did have it 3 or 4 years. I wasn’t sorry to see it go. Just sad I couldn’t care for it appropriately.
        By the way, it is nearly impossible to give away a red eared slider. I tried for a couple years.

    3. Casey*

      I always say that the only living creature type that I am capable of keeping alive is humans.
      Seriously.
      Those plants that the kids bring home in kindergarten- all die.
      The goldfish they win at carnivals- never last more than a few days.
      I follow all the instructions but still, I don’t know…
      So I’d never take responsibility for a turtle’s life, health, and happiness.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        As a keeper of fish those carnival goldfish games are the height of cruelty. Goldfish are not easy to keep, they are very complex fish with a long list of needs – just the bowl that you commonly see will never suffice.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Am I allowed to derail and go on my goldfish rant? I would very much like to discuss goldfish needs and the fact that bowls are cruelty and will kill your fish.

      2. Massive Dynamic*

        Same – only animals that can communicate very assertively to me that they need food, get food. So, just my kids and my cats. I kill all plants and my cats would murder anything below them in the food chain.

    4. Mockingjay*

      True story: About six months ago I had to call my vet.

      Me: Hi, I think my dog ate a dead baby turtle on our morning walk. Not sure; just need to know whether I should bring him in for scan or just watch for distress signs. (*shell probably won’t digest and cause problems as it moves through)
      Receptionist: *laughs and laughs.
      Receptionist: I’m sorry, we hear a lot of dog ate something weird stories, but this is a first. I’ll pull Dog’s chart and have the doctor call you back.
      PS: Dog apparently spat out dead turtle where I didn’t see as it never appeared on the other end.

      (Note: my vet and their staff are wonderful and take very good care of us. The receptionist loves all fur babies and spoils ours rotten. If you met my big GSD dork, you’d understand why she laughed. He eats EVERYTHING. Currently he’s being dewormed because he ate…something.)

      1. Zelda*

        During the first year we had the setter, I googled ‘Is [noun] safe for dogs?’ probably weekly. I have tried explaining to her that her primary sense organ is *supposed* to be her nose, *not* her digestive tract, but she doesn’t seem to believe me.

    5. TurtleLiberationFront*

      Offer to take turtle for the weekend, take directly to rescue organization for prearranged foster / release, see how long it takes for anyone to inquire after it (I’m guessing months), if anyone asks claim it died.

  6. Quickbeam*

    There is no excuse for treating animals like a widget. This is the ugliest letter I’ve read in a long time.

    1. anonymous 5*

      Yeah…I think we might need a special category in the “Worst Boss” voting this year for “sadistic-level cruelty.”

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s cruelty but rather massive stupidity and ignorance.

        Of course, that’s a dangerous combination the often leads to very cruel and dangerous situations. So, that’s no defense. Especially when it’s coming from a supposedly competent adult.

      2. radfordblue*

        “Sadistic” seems a bit much for giving someone an unwanted pet. Thoughtless, clueless, ignorant, sure, but sadistic is over the top.

    2. Need More Sunshine*

      Yep, this reminds me of when it was “trend” in my high school to carry a miniature (alive!) turtle around in your pocket and PAINT ITS SHELL WITH NAIL POLISH – and then the girls doing this were somehow surprised that their turtles developed tumors on their shells??? It was inexcusable then for 15 year old girls to do this and is even worse coming from an adult business owner?!

      1. londonedit*

        What?! Carrying an actual live animal around in your pocket at school?? How on earth did they even get away with that? I’m 99.9% sure it’s illegal to buy/sell/import turtles and tortoises in the UK without a proper licence, and it’d certainly be illegal to sell them to 15-year-olds. And at any rate, my school would have come down like a ton of bricks on anyone bringing any sort of animal in. This boggles my mind!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Sadly this was a THING 40ish years ago. Really. Which is WHY all those laws about size of turtles, etc. are on the books. When I was a kid, you could buy little turtles at KMart, take them home, still them in a glass bowl and then two weeks later go get another one because they died from improper care.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It’s still comes up now and again. Just a few years ago, Florida had to put out Public Service announcements asking people not to paint turtles. Wild turtles were being vandalized.
            People aren’t the greatest.

          2. emmelemm*

            Or, alternatively, you get a little turtle and eventually it turns into a big turtle and then it’s inconvenient and you just let it go somewhere or worse…

          3. Dawbs*

            Last time i was in South Carolina (not picking on SC, it’s just where i saw it most recently 12? years ago), you could buy painted hermit crabs on necklaces to wear at tourist traps.
            The shells aren’t permanent, but i still hated the idea

        2. HereKittyKitty*

          I once inherited a turtle from an elementary school teacher when I was in high school that was a red ear slider (an aquatic turtle) that a student had brought to school to basically abandon (it had gotten bigger) and it had nail polish on its shell. Poor thing was messed up. Thankfully the teacher knew the turtle didn’t belong in the classroom and needed actual care, so I took it home. It was being kept in a non-aquatic environment and I already owned a turtle from my own elementary school days. They both lived happily outside for 15-20 years in our backyard pond.

    3. Princess Deviant*

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. “Ugliest letter” is a perfect description and I hate this boss.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup. Very ugly. I commented above that there are likely a LOT more problems with this boss and that’s just awful. I hope OP gets out of there soon. After rescuing the turtles, of course.

    4. GNG*

      This situation made me sad, especially for the turtles. I think it will not end well for anyone.

      I know Alison recommended pushing back as a group but I can just foresee how many people at the office will suddenly develop a bad memory and just “forget” to bring their turtle home.

  7. KP*

    Okay well first of all a turtle is better than BEES (?!?!). Also, this is some of the craziest shit I’ve ever heard. I agree with Alison that it calls for a stronger reaction when animal welfare is involved, but you shouldn’t have to be the only person pushing back on it. Can you try and get a group of coworkers together who are somewhat reasonable and lay out your concerns and push back as a group?

    I really, really hope we get an update on this one.

    1. Anhaga*

      “I really, really hope we get an update on this one.”

      Seconding this. Please, LW, please update us when there’s something to update us on.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I really really really hope the update is “ED was arrested and the org is paying everyone a lot better” or “OP got a new job” because either way that ED is bad news and I hope OP moves on to a more healthy environment.

    2. quill*

      The turtle is better than bees because it’s easier to keep track of, rehome, and less likely to have deadly allergies associated with it… but wow.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Ha! Yeah, better than bees, but no reptile is going to be the best choice for a low-maintenance pet being passed around from person to person. As Alison states, they’re pretty specific as to needs and requirements. I know with iguanas if you feed them a slightly wrong diet (too much calcium or something) it won’t be immediately obvious but they’ll eventually develop a terrible disease. You could be doing everything else right – temperature, humidity, space, exercise – but overdo it on the spinach-to-kale ratio, and blammo.

        The best pet for an office to pass around has got to be a tamagotchi (remember those, all us elder millennials?)

          1. My Boss is Dumber Than Yours*

            It’s like when the ED we (the board) were considering firing said “well, the lawyers say what I did probably won’t result in criminal charges” as the *positive* things about her tenure… avoiding criminal prosecution and bee stings are not the standards I apply to my directors… I want just a bit more, thank you very much.

        1. SarahKay*

          I remember being at work – retail – and serving customers who wanted a complicated order. Just as they walked up to me the tamagotchi beeped to let me know it needed to be fed. It beeped quietly a couple more times as I worked with them. Then, just as we were nearly done and heading for the till-point I heard its death-knell sound.
          OP, have you tried the ‘I can’t even keep a tamagotchi alive, I can’t possibly take the turtle’ excuse?

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Best low maintenance pet is a “ tamagotchi.”

          Snort…..I lost track of how many of my classmates got upset when those were confiscated during class – upset because they were trying to feed it so it didn’t die.

          1. it's-a-me*

            I remember lots of kids would set their clocks so day was night, and then the tamagotchi would sleep during school time, and they would wake up every hour to feed it at night.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Well, better than bees indoors, but bees properly maintained in a suitable outdoor location such as the roof, or the exterior window setup described below, and maintained by actual beekeepers… MUCH better than turtles.

    3. Clisby*

      The only thing I can think of with bees is one of those setups where a clear “hive” is mounted on the outside of a window, with openings so the bees can come and go freely. You can see them building the hive structure, watch the honeycomb being formed, etc. Kind of like having an ant farm, but with bees. My kids’ school had one on a big window, and it was really cool – but the bees weren’t actually inside the building.

      1. Clisby*

        Also, in this case, the school employees didn’t have to do anything to take care of the bees. The setup was supplied by a local beekeeping assocation – they maintained it and they got the honey. I don’t know whether they offered this only for schools or not – the main purpose was to education people about bees and possibly get some of them interested in keeping bees someday.

      2. Teapot Repair Technician*

        The Schuylkill Valley Nature Center in Philadelphia has (or had) a similar hive. Seeing bees like that is fascinating. I was last there around 1980, but I remember those bees like it was yesterday.

    4. Teapot Repair Technician*

      …a turtle is better than BEES…

      I disagree. I think bees are better. In the article linked above, the beehives are located on the roof of a NYC building, so easily avoidable, and the beekeeping classes are voluntary. Also, presumably, whoever teaches the classes ensures they’re properly cared for, even over weekends and holidays. Furthermore, bees do us the favor of pollinating plants and giving us honey.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think bees are better. Mostly they will be on a roof or elsewhere away from where people are actually working.
        Unless they were trying to force everyone to get actively involved in the beekeeping it probably wouldn’t impinge much on the employees
        (And while it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, beekeeping is fascinating and a lot of people are interested. I know lots of clubs have waiting lists for their introductory courses )

  8. I'm sure Alison can connect us if needed*

    SAVE the TURTLES!!
    I will call a local rescue for you if you feel it would out you in any way.
    I’ll call the local papers too.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Have to be completely honest, most shelters I know of are pretty over-subscribed already with abandoned pets; they’re probably not going to like, try to seize animals from owners that don’t want to give them up, without real evidence of abuse? I think people are overestimating what they’re going to do in this circumstance, unfortunately.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m now wondering if this would actually meet thre threshold of abuse?
        I know very, very little about turtles and even the “classroom pet” many commenters mentioned aren’t a thing I’ve ever encountered where I live so cultural/geographical ideas might differ but I’m thinking that such blatant disregard of an animal’s wellbeing might already constitute abusive?

        1. Rebecca1*

          Some jurisdictions are stricter than others, but it would probably depend on the care conditions of the turtles. If they have a certain minimum of space, light, heat, food, and water, it probably is legal.

          1. Observer*

            Not if they are carrying the turtles back and forth to people’s homes every weekend. For one thing, there is absolutely no way for the employer to insure that they have these minimums in people’s homes. For another, transport is an issue. So is the fact that turtles don’t do to well when it’s in unfamiliar territory – and you are putting them in unfamiliar territory EVERY WEEK.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          As Rebecca says above, I bet this varies wildly across regions, but in my experience it’s pretty tough; you’d have to have something egregious to get folks to mobilize to seize an animal. What’s described here doesn’t seem like it’s police action worthy. But they might still be useful as in offering to accept the turtles if the Executive Director’s mind can be changed?

        3. That weird person with pet reptiles*

          In my state (and I think many others as well), you can abuse a turtle all you want. Animal abuse laws typically only apply to companion animals and livestock. Otherwise everyone keeping their betta fish in a vase would be breaking the law.

      2. LunaLena*

        It depends, some shelters will take in anything and find room for them. Especially if it’s something that can live in an aquarium, as opposed to needing a kennel. Or, at the very least, some of them might be able to offer advice and resources on turtle care or rehoming. If there is one in OP’s area, I’d suggest looking specifically for a reptile rescue.

        In fact, if OP does get an animal welfare group to call the loon/president, I’d ask if they can use the cover story “we heard about your plan after several people called us in a panic, asking for advice on how to take care of sudden turtles…”

      3. Observer*

        without real evidence of abuse?

        You may be correct about what the local animal welfare is going to do. But there is no doubt that they are going to have evidence of abuse. Because this announcement already has evidence of abuse. The idea that you can send turtles home to random employees each week IS abusive to animals like this. I mean, aside from the habitats, how are they being transported? Plastic bag? Someone’s pocket? Someone’s briefcase?

      4. sofar*

        Yeah, at the shelter I volunteer at (in the south), they’re not coming to rescue the turtles, unfortunately. If the turtles are technically being fed and sheltered, nothing’s happening. They barely have time to seize animals that are being literally starved, beaten and and used as fight bait.

        I feel for these turtles, I really do, but I think the only way to get them rehomed is to see if there is a local, dedicated turtle/reptile rescue and LW lobbies with other employees to get the turtles into safe homes.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Thank you, I realize from the outside it could seem like the perfect solution – but this is my experience too.

      5. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Humane societies will. In many places the humane society is in charge of taking animals from dangerous homes.

        You can also look for turtle or aquatic specific rescues.

      6. Red 5*

        In my area you just have to find the right rescue org. They have no shortage of volunteers with a passion for saving X animal and the time/ resources to be enough of a pain.

        In my hometown, not so much, so it will depend on the location.

    2. Shark Whisperer*

      I put this below, but I also wanted put a comment higher up the thread so it might be more visible. The OP should definitely try to find a reptile or turtle specific rescues. Most cat and dog rescues don’t know what to do with reptiles. The Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society (MATTS) is an excellent turtle welfare organization and can probably connect the OP to someone more local to them is they are not in the Mid-Atlantic.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        This is the perfect solution after OP and her coworkers push back and get the boss to agree to surrender the turtles. I still don’t think this org is going to like, seize the turtles under an animal cruelty citizen’s arrest type situation.

    3. I'm sure Alison can connect us if needed*

      To all the commenters – I definitely meant a turtle rescue and not to seize the turtles but to try to prevent the whole thing to begin with!
      And to rehome them if the company did/does go through with the turtle bonding thing.

      1. LilyP*

        Yeah, I think having a Very Serious Accredited Animal Rights Institution come in to deliver the “uhhhh wtf” message would carry more weight, especially with someone who clearly doesn’t respect their employees’ opinions already. Like the letter recently about how the big bosses listen to ideas from consultants after dismissing the same ideas from employees. Coming from employees they’ll just hear “oh people are just looking for an excuse to be lazy and undermine me”

  9. Anhaga*

    This is a first, isn’t it? Wow. Why on earth would anyone think this was a good idea? Mean, any animal is a terrible idea, but a *turtle*? Which is an odd sort of animal to have as a pet anyways, let alone as a mandatory pet that you did not choose? Contact an animal rescue group, and then also leak the story to a news organization that would run with it as a “news of the weird” type thing.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m imagining the CEO sitting back waiting for all the great press he will get for his innovative idea. I’d be tempted to call the local paper and have them run a story on it. The CEO will brag about his infinite genius and then he will have to deal with all the fallout once the story runs.

      1. Beth*

        Yes, I was thinking “I bet the boss picked turtles because that way, they assumed they could block people from opting out on the basis of an allergy or a phobia.”

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes. When I was a child I had a maths tutor and she had a tortoise. They’re not the most high maintenance pet out there but they have needs and quirks and they live a long time. My teacher said she got hers as a 21st birthday present and she must have been 50 when I knoew her.

      1. That weird person with pet reptiles*

        Most reptiles are pretty easy to care for, but their habitat set up is expensive and large. There’s no way that everyone is set up for it at their homes.

    3. ErinWV*

      I’ve always kind of wanted a pet turtle, not enough to act on it, but they are cute and they seem like they’d be cool to have around. But now that I have read all about the hygienic requirements and salmonella and whatnot, I definitely don’t see turtle stewardship in my future.

  10. Workerbee*

    How wonderful for your president to create an environment of fear and loathing so they can be as fully an asshole as they can! (I have had it with assholes being allowed to stay assholes.)

    For them to endanger a dependent living being is a horrific example of their willful abuse. Please do contact a rescue organization at the very least. Wild imaginations include anonymously tipping off the local news as well…

  11. Macaroni Penguine*

    Living creatures are not a workplace team building tool!
    Did your supervisor get this idea from “The Class Room Hamster” in elementary school? Because those two situations are quite different. One difference being, like you mentioned, that turtles have specific care needs and live a long time.

    1. Doc in a Box*

      At least turtles don’t eat their young?

      (I’m still traumatized from that, and I’m sure so is the rest of Ms. Deterding’s 1995-1996 class….

        1. Macaroni Penguin*

          Fair point. I never had a classroom pet when going through elementary school. One presumes that the Class Hamster would have a teacher in charge of its overall care. And that the hamster would stay in the classroom? Or at least the Student Caretakers would sign up for animal companionship willingly? Certainly flaws exist in the Classroom Pet concept.
          The idea of an Imposed Workplace Turtle is many orders of magnitude worse.

          1. quill*

            Yeah, classroom pets have fallen out of favor because changing housing setups regularly is not ideal for any animal, more kids are allergic / know they’re allergic these days, and it’s much better known by the general public how much more space and enrichment animals like rodents actually need.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            The “classroom pet” I remember having one year in school was a pair of monarch caterpillars. We watched them get bigger, kept them in a terrarium thing, no one took them home, and after they pupated we released them outdoors. Best pet ever.

            1. quill*

              Yeah, we did that every few years. Very educational, and good from an animal welfare and environmental perspective!

    2. Anon4This*

      I used to attend a Saturday morning AA meeting at a Salvation Army that had a pre-school and the meeting was held in the classroom. For a couple years they had some kind of furry creatures in a cage there- hamsters or gerbils or something, I’m not sure. Anyway every Saturday without fail I’d come in and the things would have tipped out all their food and be out of water. I’d refill the water bottle and try to make sure they could at least get to their food. I don’t know if they went through all the water by Saturday morning, or if the staff weren’t filling it up Friday- either way it was poor care. I’m sure by Monday morning they were starving and thirsty.

    3. iliketoknit*

      oh man, we had to take the class hamster home for one weekend when I was a kid, and my mom was NOT happy. I also had a nightmare that it got out of its cage, was running around the floor, and I stepped on it and killed it by accident. (Yes, I am an eldest child.)

    4. A Genuine Scientician*

      My first grade class had a pet toad. We even wrote a song about it in music class.

      Student would sign up to bring the toad home over the weekend.

      The toad died the weekend I brought it home.

      So on Monday morning, I had to try to explain to my class that the toad had died while I was caring for it. I was crying; I thought they would all blame me and hate me forever. My mother, who did not even want us to have pets, was also crying, primarily due to how distressed I was, but was there because I could not face the class alone (and also she was a stay at home parent).

      It is honestly one of the more traumatic memories of my childhood.

      1. Macaroni Penguin*

        The class pet experience has so, so many systemic flaws. It’s good to hear that this isn’t done so much anymore.

        And that’s a lesson to the OP’s president. The Moral Turtles are an incredibly bad idea!

    1. This is not my first time.*

      My son’s kindergarten class had a STUFFED sloth, and even that was a lot of work to take care of for the weekend.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      My kid brought home the class guinea pigs in second grade. We had to keep them in her bedroom with the door shut at all times because our cats wanted to make friends with (eat) them.

    3. Eden*

      My immediate reaction also. Yikes. (Of course it’s also bad in kindergarten for all of the same reasons Alison says here.)

  12. Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau*

    Ugh, I’m reminded of a few years back when 2 or 3 young women in my office decided it would be a great idea to get betta fish for their desks in our already cramped open floor plan. They kept them in those tiny 6″x8″ containers that are meant for taking hamsters to the vet and never took them home on the weekends or holidays. The poor things were all dead inside of a few months.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      I’ve kept bettas (properly) and am always appalled by the horribly wrong info provided by fish/pet shops about how to care for them. They are really beautiful, interesting, and very entertaining fish when provided the basics for a good life. It’s not hard. But they are sold deliberately as disposable decorations. (So are goldfish and many other species. It’s horrendous.)

      Sorry for the rant. I just hate this sort of nonsense.

      1. quill*

        My high school library had a betta but it was kept properly and the librarian took personal responsibility for it over the summer. Pets in the workspace only work if they have ONE competent and committed caretaker.

      2. Jules of the River*

        Seconding your rant! I’ve seen goldfish advertised as great pets for kids because “they only live for 2-3 years”. Mine is well-cared for and going strong at 8.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I owned a goldfish for 8 years that had belonged to a friend for 5 years before then before he left for college. The fish finally died but 13 years for a “feeder” goldfish???

          1. Shark Whisperer*

            Wild goldfish (prussian carp) actually have a lifespan of 10-15 years. Some breeds of domestic goldfish can live up to 30 years, if they are well taken care of.

            Like others on this thread, I am continuously frustrated by people’s attitudes toward fish welfare. Thank you, at least, for taking good care of your fish.

          2. Bagpuss*

            When I bought my previous home, there was a tiny & neglected water feature in the back garden. The pump was broken and I decided that, as I didn’t want a water feature, I would empty out the stagnant sludge and use the ‘basin’ as a planter.
            After baling out about 2/3 of the contents (which was liquid sludge rather than water!) I was astonished to discover a couple of goldfish.!
            I ended up doing some high speed research, and after a couple of days in a bucket of gradually diluted sludge, they moved back into the ‘pond’ with clean water, a selection of suitable plants and a mini pump.
            They lived for another 6 or 7 years (they didn’t, sadly, survive a flash-flood)
            I am still amazed that they survived in the conditions they had when I moved in.

        2. Teapot Repair Technician*

          Agreed! A properly cared-for goldfish can live for many years and grow quite large. The fact that a typical pet goldfish has stunted growth and dies after a couple years is evidence that they are not great pets for most people.

        3. Media Monkey*

          our childhood goldfish (which came from the fair) lived until they were about 12 or 13 and were massive – about 8 inches long. my poor mum moved house with them and the giant tank had to sit on the floor as it was too heavy for any of the furniture (our previous house was v old with big deep windowsills set into the stone)

      3. tinybutfierce*

        Owning fish for a few years as a college student was a mind-blowing experience for me when it came to how the general consensus for their care was “idk, chuck them in a too-small bowl with no filter or anything else at all”, even from pet stores (I still feel bad for the poor koi I got after being told he’d do fine in the same smaller tank my goldfish were in; dude thankfully got to live most of his life rehomed to a big pond, though). My school had some annual carnival type event, and one of the prizes were live goldfish, given out in little glass vases that MAYBE held three cups of water. I ended up with two and pretty much immediately went to town on researching what they actually needed, bought the best aquarium setup I could afford on a college kid budget, and tried to care for them as best I could. Those little feeder goldfish probably lived for about five years; I’m pretty sure most of the others won by fellow students died within a few weeks. ;_;

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, even with research, you can make mistakes. I got an aquarium in college, set it up, had it run for a period of time, etc., but apparently the motor on the filter was too strong for the tiniest fish I bought and it just… sucked them up :-( I felt so bad. I had an okay time with mollys for awhile and a great plecostomus that just kept growing. I think I ended up having to rehome him because he outgrew my tank and I was limited on how big of a tank was allowed in the dorms.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          The store told you to put a male koi in with goldfish? Oh no. That’s a no. They’ll try reproducing with your goldfish and trust me, that does not go well.

          (I mean, the ladies will too, but go look up how koi reproduce)

      4. PT*

        Yeah bettas are supposed to be in a 5 gal aquarium with a filter and a heater. They’re happier that way! And honestly, the more water you have in your aquarium, the easier it is to take care of. You don’t get wild fluctuations that require intervention nearly as often.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We kept ours in a five-gallon tank and we trained it to take mosquitoes from our fingers.
        (You want to bite me sucker? Ha… I’m going to feed you to my fish!)

      6. Alice*

        My mother has been taking care of a coworker’s goldfish every August for 7 years now. Just saw the lil dude and he’s doing fine, getting bigger every year. He just requires regular food and cleaning, and a nice tank with his pebbles and fake plant. It’s appalling that people treat fish as disposable and don’t even provide that much.

    2. Jamie Starr*

      I think I’ve mentioned this before — at a long ago ex-museum job some one who applied for a special events manager position sent the museum a fuchsia and purple male betta fish in a glass bowl, with elaborate purple and fuchsia ribbons around the bowl and a message saying something to the effect of “Tired of fishing for the right candidate? Hire me.” (GUMPTION!)

      The poor receptionist then had to scramble to figure out how to care for it. There was a Barcelona table in the reception area and the next morning when he came in, there was water all over the table and carpet. I guess the cleaning crew had set the bowl down a bit too hard and it cracked, and most of the water to seeped out over night. (Fish and Barcelona table both escaped damage!)

      To be honest, I don’t remember what happened to the fish, I hope it was donated to an employee who gave it a good home.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      This reminds me of when my father got a fish tank when I was nine. My sister and I were allowed to pick out fish to go in the tank, and I got a little goldfish that I called Minnie. Well, my father, in his infinite wisdom, decided he wanted a betta fish. He put this betta in the fish tank. Sure enough, next weekend when we went to my father’s apartment, Minnie was nowhere to be seen. His betta ate my goldfish, and then promptly exploded because she was bigger than the betta and he just kept chomping down.

    4. Betta recognize*

      Ugh. A few people in my office did the same thing a while back. I at least got an actual tank for a fish–something like three gallons? I put in a filter and a heater to keep it at the right temperature, cleaned it diligently every week, and did water treatment so it would be the right pH, etc. I didn’t take him home on weekends, but did any time it was going to be 3+ days away from the office unless someone else was going to be there who could take care of him.

  13. anonymous 5*

    I fear that a boss who would unilaterally decide that everyone in the office is now saddled with a turtle might *very well* expect OP to put their mother’s health in jeopardy to do so. This has more whiskey, tango and foxtrot than a drunken ballroom dance party.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I honestly don’t think so — people can be ridiculous in this specific way without being cartoon villain level of awful (and usually that’s the case).

      1. Elenna*

        I suspect the president might push back a little with “oh, it’s really a very small chance of salmonella”, but if OP keeps saying that small or not, their mother’s health is at stake (i.e. focus on your mother instead of being drawn into an argument on the exact probability of getting salmonella from a turtle) then yeah, they should back off.

        That being said, this is 100% bonkers and I agree that you should contact an animal welfare organization.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I don’t think he’ll say “I don’t care about your mother’s health” but he might very well say “don’t be silly, the turtles don’t have salmonella” :/

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I think at that point, you can just fall back on the tried and true, “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.” or the more direct, “That won’t be possible.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

        2. Shark Whisperer*

          I hope it won’t even get to this point, but if it does, I think the OP (and her colleagues) should demand that the turtles get tested. Reptile vets (in my experience, at least) are happy to not only test your animal, but also look at the serotype and let you know if it is dangerous to humans

          Side note: I had no idea there were different types of salmonella until I started working with reptiles. At one aquarium I worked at, all reptiles that came into contact with the public (like were used in educational programs) had to be tested monthly for salmonella. If they were positive, the serotype was checked against CDC data. If it was a serotype known to infect humans, the animal was removed from public programs. If they were positive for salmonella, but it was a serotype that doesn’t easily infect humans, they could continue to do programs.

      3. A Feast of Fools*

        Yeah, the c-suite top person of my department would love for everyone to be back in the office. Our CEO has said our “must return” date is at the end of the year, but my great-grandboss is like, “But if you’re vaccinated, what’s the big deal?”

        He also can’t say “work from home” without miming air quotes with his fingers and winking.

        BUT when I pointed out that my elderly mother lives with me and that there’s no way I am going to jeopardize her health just we can return to “normal” before the pandemic is over, he backed waaaaay off and is now even making noises about being more flexible with remote work in the future.

        He did *not* twirl his imaginary mustache and say, “Your mother be-damned! Get back into this office!”

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is a great team building plan.
      (Aside from the mistreatment of the turtle, which should have made this a non starter from jump…)

      The same people are going to get stuck doing this. They will resent my coworkers with reasonable reasons to opt out, or the willingness to opt out.
      “Hey, I have an out of town wedding this weekend and can’t take the turtle.”
      But you always do!
      You can take him with you.
      Nobody else is available.
      Name that turtle Good Deed, because nobody in this fiasco will go unpunished.

  14. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I got TWO letters about this a few days apart. One just said “animals,” and didn’t specify turtles so I didn’t know they were the same office and I was very confused about why multiple organizations were doing this. It turned out the other letter was this LW’s sister, asking on her behalf.

      1. Need More Sunshine*

        I love that they both immediately thought to take this to Alison, too – great minds, sisters!

    1. Anonymous Badger*

      I work for a conservation based non-profit and we had a couple of turtles in our office, but it was part of the programming we do with local schools, it was temporary, and we had a specific staff person who volunteered to take care of them before we agreed to do it. We were essentially doing a head-start program for some endangered turtles, but the end goal was to always release them at the end of the school year in the spring.

      I ended up taking them home for several months when COVID hit since the original staffer that volunteered didn’t have the space, and . . . it’s a lot of work and you need a reasonable space for it. Making sure the water was heated properly, having the correct amount of water in the tank, feeding them the correct amounts (and then eventually transitioning to live prey since the intent was to release them), replacing the water in the tank, etc . . . Regularly transporting them back and forth would have been a nightmare because of all the equipment and it’s really not reasonable to expect it.

      Your advice, as always, is 100% spot on. This is a big commitment, it’s not reasonable to volunteer people for it, it doesn’t address the actual issues going on there, and it’s just . . . so weird. I hope the LW gets her other colleagues to push back or gets in touch with a local rescue organization.

      1. Mari*

        Yes, I also work in environmental education/advocacy non-profits, and I’ve worked for two orgs that had turtles and other tanks and this is not how we handled this… The education department did the day-to-day care for the animals, but we had an aquarium service tech who came once a month to do tests/adjustments, and a team of local high-schoolers who had graduated from our middle school programs who would were paid to come in and do weekend/holiday feedings.
        And this was an organization where caring for the animals and their habitats was part of their mission! Where most of the staff were self-proclaimed animal/nature lovers and spent a lot of free time paddling/hiking/marsh-mucking/fishing! I was once asked to staff a 3 night student trip into a swamp with 5 hours notice because one of the other educators had gotten sick – I was never once asked to care for the turtle in my spare time.
        I would definitely play up how much equipment is required to care these animals, and how moving the tank would require constant disruption to conditions that are pretty specific and require careful monitoring, and contact a local rescue if no one wants to face that reality.

        1. Vancouver*

          The other option is to make a long and specific list of all the things the turtles will need, and then submit an official budget request (or whatever would be applicable in your office) to buy that set up.

          Let’s say you have a red-eared slider, which is one of the more common species kept in North America. An adult would likely need a minimum of a 50 gallon tank, but we don’t want to just give it the minimum! A nice 75 gallon tank will run you $229 at PetCo, and there are much larger ones out there. Add in $100 for filters and accessories, plus a monthly fee to replace filter media. $50-100 for UV lighting, heat, and basking lamps. Turtles don’t eat as much as warm blooded pets, but you could still run up a pretty good tab on fresh veggies, fruits, and bugs.

          Once you’ve come up with $1000 worth of expenses, have everyone submit that request. After all, if this turtle is going home with everyone then it is only fair that everyone’s home has an ideal setup for the little one! Once all the equipment is delivered, give the turtle to an animal rescue group and have everyone return the supplies to the store individually. Voila, $1000 dollar bonus for all the staff!

          (Note: do not actually do this. Fraud is bad. I work with reptiles, including some really adorable tortoises who didn’t all have a great start to life and one side-necked turtle who is an absolute menace but we all still love her. This rant was my way of processing how I feel about the person who thought this was a good idea.)

      2. PT*

        I ran, let’s say a teapot painting program at a rec center, and I had a colleague who ran the teapot painting program at another rec center that was attached to an overnight camp. The camp had a ton of animals for camp season because camp!!!! but of course camp season is 10 weeks and someone needs to take care of the animals the other 42 weeks a year…and everyone’s job description had that pesky “other duties as assigned” in it…

    2. Slinky*

      This is honestly a relief! As bad as it is that one office is doing this, I’d be even more concerned about two!

    3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I’m glad you received two different letters. This needs to get out onto the Internet, all over the Internet, like the interns with their proposal, or that guy who left his girlfriend and then years later had to work for her.

      Get the news out, everywhere. Get it to every freaking outlet you can find. Get it out there so major newspapers and TV stations will think it’s a good enough story to do a piece on. Send it to every animal shelter, zoo, nature center, wildlife rescue, turtle reserve, absolutely everybody. This BONEHEAD of a CEO needs to hear from every corner just how stupid and dangerous this is.

    4. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I have pet turtles and agree 100% with your advice! Turtles need to be cared for by people who understand what they need, and who want to care for them.
      One correction: Many turtles don’t actually want to be with other turtles, and are fine being alone.
      Where I work there’s a gigantic tank with three turtles, but that was initiated by employees . There’s a group who take care of them. They set up an automated system for their food and tank cleaning and only need a human to do something about every 3 months. Our offices were closed all last year and one of the turtle folks had permission to enter the building for that. We’re a Silicon valley company with a lot of things like this so it fit our culture, and more important, the employees wanted it!

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      But if bad bosses are sea gulls, then it is turtles all the way down and sea gulls all the way up.

  15. Junebug*

    Depending on your local job market and how many coworkers you have, another possibility is getting a new job before the president notices you haven’t taken your turn. Maybe make that plan A and follow Alison’s advice as needed to buy time.

      1. Clisby*

        In the case of a turtle, it might. The turtle is probably better off just being left with food and water over the weekend than hauled to a completely different place.

        1. Pibble*

          There’s no way the office has space for proper turtle setups for each employee, not to mention that any sort of tank set up needs daily monitoring to spot potentially deadly equipment malfunctions before they become deadly. Leaving the turtle at the office might be better, but it’s still cruelly neglectful.

  16. many bells down*

    My ex once sent our kid home from a visit with two small turtles in a plastic tank. I quickly discovered that a) it was actually illegal where we lived to sell turtles that small, and b) they needed a shitton of space and equipment that I definitely didn’t have.

    We found a turtle rescue near my job and took them there two days later. Any animal is a huge responsibility, let alone one that, as Alison says, needs a ton of equipment. No one should have an animal foisted on them that they’re not fully prepared to care for!

    1. Aquawoman*

      My ex used to do things not quite like that but come up with ideas that he couldn’t execute or pay for, so he’d create this expectation in our son that I would do it. My 2d husband refers to this as an “unfunded mandate,” which is exactly what I was thinking when I read the question. Who thinks that giving overworked people MORE WORK is a good idea?!

      1. many bells down*

        Oh yeah and of course WE have to be the “bad guy” and say no, actually, you can’t keep the pet your other parent bought you. I was basically renting something one step up from a garden shed for my home and the “ideal” environment was an outdoor pond?!?

    2. That weird person with pet reptiles*

      It’s illegal everywhere to sell turtles under 4″. It’s federal law. Kids put them in their mouths and get sick. Not even kidding. That’s why it’s illegal.

      1. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Anyone who has read _Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing_ will believe you. (Major plot point is the protagonist’s little brother swallowing his pet turtle.)

    3. chronicallyweird*

      Yes completely. We have a turtle who was rescued from one of those tiny dollar store tank setups. Thing is turtles take a lot of setup and care (and most don’t like being moved around or touched.) They need frequent cleaning as are rather stinky actually and a lot more water/tank space than you might think. That’s not even getting into the heat lamps, ensuring appropriate nutrition and vitamins (basking light for additional Vitamin D) and their looong life span. I’m in shock that someone would do this to the poor turtles at a company but sadly the “kids came back from the ex’s with pets they don’t know how to take care of and don’t have all the supplies for” is something I’m familiar with…

  17. Ken*

    When I was in nursery school, my class had a guinea pig and everybody got to take it home for a day or two. It was great.

    Unless you’re in nursery school, this is not great.

    1. Former Llama Herder*

      One of my elementary school classrooms had a literal menagerie, including gerbils, snakes, fish and a large tropical bird named Freddie. Nine year old me was elated to take Freddie home over winter break, but my poor mother is still traumatized by having a large bird flying around our house. I’m tempted to send her this article just to see if she compares it to the bird!

      1. kicking_k*

        That’s what I was thinking.
        I would love it if we had office guinea pigs. But I had them for years, so I already like them…

        And I wouldn’t get any work done, because I’d be interacting with the piggies all the time.

        1. Seawren*

          I just added a pair of guinea pigs to my home office. They’re good co-workers – not so loud that they interfere with video calls, cheerful and always up for pats when I need a short break. It’s very tempting to say they have to come with me if/when we return to the office full time …

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I went to grade school in the mid-70s to early 80s, & we never had a class pet. I didn’t even think people still did that until I dated a guy whose dad was a teacher & took home the class pet on breaks.

      We had plenty of our own pets (including a turtle) to worry about.

    3. Nope, not today*

      In third grade we incubated and hatched eggs – quail and duck. My turn to take the duck home was over spring break, and the bus driver freaked out and eventually allowed me on the bus, but said I couldnt do it again to get the duck back to school…..which is how I wound up with a pet duck for a year before he got too big and we had to rehome him. Luckily my mom had a friend who built him a pond and got him a duck friend to live with. But looking back that was a terrible setup – I dont think I even had to get a permission slip signed to bring the duck home! Just SURPRISE, we have a duck now!

      1. Zephy*

        I have a “surprise, we have a duck now” story, except in my case it was six of them.

        I was renting a house with some friends in the late twenty-teens, and one friend was working for a local wildlife rehab center. Someone brought in six ducklings in an effort to “save” them. The problem was that the ducklings were an invasive species. For anyone not aware, most wildlife-rescue outfits will generally not spend resources on caring for non-native animals – they can’t release it locally because it doesn’t belong here, and most of the time they won’t have the budget or manpower to get the critter to wherever it does belong (because sometimes that is literally on another continent). Thus, the non-native ducklings were slated to be humanely euthanized. My friend, though, was interested in raising them, and for some unfathomable reason, her boss allowed it. So, she came home that day with a cardboard box containing six (tiny! adorable! but loud! and smelly!) ducklings, set them up in a modified dog crate for the weekend while she built a duck run in the backyard, and basically hand-raised these things until she moved out 3 months later, taking them with her (thankfully). I’m still not sure how our neighbors on all sides never noticed the HALF-DOZEN ACTUAL DUCKS in our backyard, but they never reported us to the city, at least.

        She moved to the country and had actual land and space where no one would care about six halfbreed duckies, so they had an OK life, I think. Probably better than being euthanized at a few days old at least. They had fresh air and sunshine, plenty of food, and a little paddling pool and later a whole-ass pond to play in. Most of them ended up coyote food, one of them got aggressive when he reached maturity and had to be iced. Her dog got duck eggs with every meal for almost a year, once the females started laying. (Her family also kept chickens and they produced plenty of eggs for the humans.)

        1. nothing rhymes with purple*

          The humans should have tried the duck eggs. They’re delicious, with a much larger yolk than chicken eggs.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            You get an incredible omelette if you combine them (duck eggs on their own are a bit rich, I find). not so easy to fry or soft boil, though, because the proportion of white/yolk is different.

      2. Claritza*

        On class trips to PA Dutch Country in the 60s, students were allowed to buy cheap local puppy mill dogs and take them home to their unsuspecting parents.

    4. Gracely*

      My SIL was a reading teacher for a few years before she had kids. One year, she “inherited” a class hamster from a retiring teacher.

      She had a pet cat at home.

      The hamster got out of its cage when she took it home over spring break. They never found him, and she had to tell the students he was on an extended vacation.

      She did not have any more class pets after that.

    5. Bagpuss*

      We had a class hamster in primary school.
      I recall having to take it home one half term. I don’t think I had a choice, or that my parents permission was sought.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Thinking about it I don’t think parents were asked for permission before my Year 3 class had to take Snap and Crackle home for weekends, and everybody was expected to take a turn. I do remember Mum going to the school because there was some reason the weekend I was assigned wasn’t convenient and I had to swap with somebody.

  18. WFH with Cat*

    Holy crap. Yes, please contact a turtle/reptile rescue!

    Also, no matter what anyone (like your crazy president) says or wants to do, please DO NOT “release” the turtles into the wild. They may not be native species; and, even if they are, captive animals carry diseases that can decimate wild populations.

    So sorry you’re dealing with this completely wacky situation.

    1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Absolutely seconding this. Please find a rescue or education center where the turtles will be properly cared for! LW, do not release into the wild.

    2. Coyote Tango*

      Yes, I was coming to address the unfortunate comment from Allison that turtles are “happier in the wild”. Turtles who have been raised as pets are in no way happier in the wild, anymore than the average cocker spaniel is happier running on the plains to hunt deer. Sending them out to be happier in the wild ensures an unpleasant death for them and the potential to introduce new disease vectors to local populations. (And of course, if they are not native, poses a large problem for the native species.)

      Also if your pet turtle is carrying “thousands” of diseases they are probably of great interest to the scientific community as turtles are not normally known to carry thousands of diseases. Salmonella is certainly a risk but the primary transmission vector is through touching a turtle, so people are not at risk from thousands of diseases simply for being near a turtle.

      I say this not to be a jerk but because as a former animal rescuer we took in dozens of animals every year that were released into the wild or outright abandoned due to misinformation about how they’d be happier in the wild or the types of diseases they carried. Every year we took in at least a dozen rabbits who were mangled from being released outside, and one year I personally had to take several guinea pigs who were near starvation after their owner dumped them outside in a field because she heard online they could carry swine flu and her mom was immunocompromised.

        1. nothing rhymes with purple*

          Oh interesting, I had put this particular link up mostly as a flag for this thread. I didn’t interpret “Turtles are happier in the wild” as advice to take these particular turtles and dump them in the wild somewhere, but as part of a discussion about how these are not domesticated animals. But that’s just my reading.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Whoa — I was definitely not saying that would be a good course of action! They are happier in the wild = stop breeding and capturing them for pets, not release this particular turtle who is probably not prepared to survive in the wild!

        1. Worldwalker*

          It’s not so much that the turtle isn’t prepared to survive in the wild — turtles function on instinct; they’d be just fine in the right place. But the chances of getting it to the right place are small. It’s probably not native to that area, let alone where the kind of person who would think this is a good idea in the first place would take it. “Turtles like water, right?” and dumps a sulcata in a river.

          Also, domestic turtles (or anything else) can transmit diseases to wild populations. See: chytrid fungus.

  19. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

    Somewhere out there is an office that smells like the reptile house at the zoo.

    But in all seriousness, this is bad. I had an aquatic turtle once and it was MEGABUX once the turtle grew. It was irresponsibly purchased by an acquaintance, I adopted it from them because they weren’t caring for it properly, and… it was hard. I ended up rehoming it to a herpetologist once it grew to the size of a dinner plate and a tank would no longer fit in my very small apartment. It’s going to cost the employees in the long run! This isn’t a gift that is commensurate with a bonus, this is hundreds of dollars, at minimum, from their annual salaries!

    Those poor turtles.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. A turtle is not something you just put in a glass bowl on the table. They need a LOT of speciality equipment — all the time. Good grief, is the boss going to buy all the stuff for the office? Then expect her minions to pay for the set up at home? Turtles don’t need personal care every day IF their environment is correct. But getting that environment correct is so very important. Not to mention the trauma to the poor thing of being carted out of its regular environment to an unknown one every weekend?

      Looking at it from the employee point of view, it takes a special person to care about turtles. Just like there are cat people and dog people, there are turtle people. If you ain’t one, having to care for one is a burden.

      What happens if EVERYONE just refuses to take the turtles home on weekend? Is the boss going to do it (LOL, sometimes I crack myself up). Although the Boss might have inadvertenly made this a team building exercise anyway — everyone coming together to NOT have the turtles in the office.

  20. bunniferous*

    Animal rescue AND the local news media (anonymously of course.) The animal rescue gets free publicity and this insane boss gets a public reality check. Win-win!

  21. Heathen*

    Hmm. Not sure about the advice to focus on the turtle’s welfare. I just don’t think people will care that much about turtles in most places except maybe Europe. When I was in Britain animal rights were taken far more seriously, but unless the animal is a cute mammal, I don’t see Americans caring about animal treatment very much? Even in the progressive state of California, I went to an animal shelter and heard horrendous stories about snake maltreatment that were ignored by authorities. They could only be removed from the owners when they did something truly extreme, like shoot the snake multiple times for fun. Even then the owner barely got fined.
    I think you will come across as a weirdo or fanatic going on about turtle rights and will lose credibility. I am skeptical that even an animal welfare org will step in just on the basis of “keeping turtles in offices alone is cruel”. There is no obvious sign of maltreatment (yet). I think pushing back on the grounds that they are unsafe for your family and/or break the terms of your lease seems the most prudent to me.

    1. quill*

      A specific reptile rescue will probably be better equipped than your local generalized animal welfare organization that most people would report to, and more enthusiastic about the specific needs of a turtle.

      Getting the boss shut down on “bringing random animals to work” is probably going to work best from an “it is never acceptable because of animal welfare (think of the bad publicity!” than “I personally CANNOT.”

      1. Heathen*

        This was actually a reptile rescue center… I think the big problem with making this an animal welfare issue is that that is not what actually bothers the OP, from the letter.
        If the president decided to splurge on buying everyone a wonderful turtle habitat at work and at home, or bought a specific species of turtle that is certified “perfectly happy in confined solitary environments” etc, none of this would solve OP’s problem, which is that they fundamentally don’t want the extra work and unsanitary aspect.
        The OP needs to focus on what is the problem for them, otherwise they might solve the wrong problem. And I just don’t see “offices keeping turtles in not 100% optimal conditions!!!” is really such a scandal that any news agency would pick it up.

        1. quill*

          I mean, OP has two problems:
          1) Turtles specifically pose a risk to their mom.
          2) Boss’ ideas about inflicting additional work and cost on employees will not be limited to turtles! Next time it will be “then can you come in over the weekend to feed the turtles” or “the turtles didn’t work out so we got an office bunny that you can take home” or “Here’s 27 pointsettias I bought on sale, please keep them alive until christmas because I got them before thanksgiving.”

          So I don’t think “hey, DON’T DO THIS for animal welfare reasons” is solving the wrong problem so much as that OP’s second problem isn’t soluble except by having someone with authority over the Boss vetoing their great ideas for morale that coincidentally are expensive and onerous for employees. And gathering the office (probably all individually not that thrilled to be voluntold about turtle babystitting) behind animal welfare might be an easier sell to whoever has authority over Boss than “none of us want to do extra turtle work.”

    2. mreasy*

      An animal rescue org is by definition staffed by people who will care about this creature. Americans have their flaws, but I think it’s extreme to assume that American animal rescues won’t care about a turtle because it isn’t cute and fluffy.

      1. Heathen*

        It’s just that there hasn’t been any obvious instance of abuse yet. I think fighting this on the basis of animal rights is going to come across as an overreaction to most people.

        1. Observer*

          Any competent rescue organization that specializes in turtles / reptiles is not going to agree with you. Because the plan to send them home to employees each weekend IS abusive. It is just not possible to insure that the turtles are appropriately transported AND that each staff person has the appropriate space, equipment and knowledge to actually keep a turtle for the weekend.

      2. londonedit*

        And while British people may in general be rather silly about animals (it’s often stated that as a nation we give vastly more money to animal charities every year than we do to the ones supporting actual human beings) there is of course still shocking neglect of animals in Britain. There’s puppy farming, neglect of dogs and cats, animal hoarding, everything you find in every other country in the world where people keep animals as pets.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes we are far from perfect in that respect. Also I think people care more about animals that look cute or fluffy than those that don’t
          As evidenced by the concern recently about the Governments intention to euthanise someone’s pet alpaca with TB. The amount of column inches generated was significant. If it were a snake or lizard I doubt it would have had the same appeal.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I mean, the boss obviously doesn’t care about the turtles because they came up with this plan and didn’t immediately think “LOL no can you imagine?” But they’ll look like a phenomenal jerk if they respond to “are we abusing/neglecting these living animals?” with “it’s for TEAM BUILDING” so it’s the best way to emphasize the inappropriateness of the idea.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      A few years back in my Midwestern community, there was an uproar about someone attacking a snapping turtle with a golf club, so you never can tell. And a snapping turtle isn’t even the kind of crowd-pleaser that, say a painted or box turtle is.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          It’s not a snapping turtle, it’s a diamondback terrapin. Still beaky, different environment, far more unusual when one shows up on your doorstep eating the dog food.

    5. Heathen*

      So what I’m trying to say is, the problem isn’t REALLY that the boss wants turtles. It wouldn’t make the situation much better for the OP if this were another kind of pet that’s easier to keep. Even a goldfish would be plenty onerous. The issue is that it’s incredibly inappropriate and problematic to force people who haven’t consented, to take care of a pet over the weekend in their homes. I think there’s a risk that the President just chooses another animal if OP specifically pushes back on the “Turtle Welfare” aspect.

      1. quill*

        See, my priority in terms of bringing up the turtle welfare aspect is that boss is shut down about bringing ANY ANIMAL into this situation, because I can imagine that it will be rabbits next, or goldfish…

      2. Siege*

        And yet, you wrapped that all up in a veneer of “well, Americans just don’t care about animals”, despite a comment section that is largely American and almost universally addressing the animal abuse aspect. You appear to be unaware of the existence of animal-specific rescues, sanctuaries, rehab facilities, and general anti-abuse advocacy organizations. Your case hinges entirely on what one specific state does or does not do, conflating progressive-for-workers to generally-progressive, and you are generalizing that to 49 more states and an additional 250 million people.

        I cannot think why you’re having to clarify your point.

      3. Observer*

        I think that if it’s played right, highlighting the animal welfare aspect actually has a better chance of getting all of these schemes shut down. Because it’s obvious that he simply didn’t think about that aspect. And any discussion of this should wind up being about how it’s not actually a reasonable idea from an animal welfare pov to have ANY pets that can’t be left in the office over the weekend.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        Goldfish need pretty hefty care to not die horribly and early! They are not easy pets at all if you care for them properly!

    6. Sleepless*

      Well…that’s not very nice.

      Maybe I’m skewed because I spend my professional life among animal lovers, but I promise that compassion for animals is alive and well in America. I don’t think the LW will come across weird at all. Most likely several other people are having the same misgivings.

      1. Heathen*

        OK, I apologize to the Americans here that I brought up the nationality angle, that wasn’t nice. Sorry. I have been very upset with the treatment of non-mammals in the USA compared to where I’m from, so I was bringing in an irrelevant point. I am an animal welfare advocate.
        I was expressing my bitterness that I just don’t think people will care about turtles that much. It’s heart-breaking (and actually heart-warming to see how many AAM readers are not this way) but I just don’t think this angle is going to be effective in getting OP what they want.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I mean the whole premise of getting the turtles in the first place was that people would care about them and be happy they were there. Your experience with the rescue sounds like something that had legal restrictions around it (we can’t act until x threshold is passed) which a) varies by state and b) is pretty on par with how we deal with children in bad situations too. I think you’re overvaluing a bad experience and missing context. Americans like animals a whole lot more than people, generally speaking.

    7. Joielle*

      I think it makes sense to contact an animal rescue – at least for advice, or removal if appropriate. Animal rescue people are probably the most likely to care about this. Maybe they could send along turtle care information and the LW could give it to the higher ups, like “I can’t really participate with the turtles because of my mom but I did get this really helpful information from [local org], just want to make sure we have a plan for all of this very specific food/habitat/socialization/environment/vet visits/whatever. It turns out that keeping turtles is more complicated than I realized!”

      But I’ve seen a few commenters recommend contacting local media and I agree with you from that standpoint – I just really do not think the public would care about this. Keeping a turtle in an office is weird but I don’t think most people would consider it a horrible animal abuse story. Most people (me included) don’t know much about turtle care requirements.

      1. Observer*

        But I’ve seen a few commenters recommend contacting local media and I agree with you from that standpoint – I just really do not think the public would care about this. Keeping a turtle in an office is weird but I don’t think most people would consider it a horrible animal abuse story. Most people (me included) don’t know much about turtle care requirements.

        If you feed the media outlet some information, this could work well. It’s BOTH an animal welfare story and well as a staff welfare story. A good script writer could do wonders with this one and get a very diverse set of people riles up. (And with good reason!)

    8. Smithy*

      I’m an American who works for a nonprofit – and while I don’t know if its helpful to focus on how much Americans do or don’t care about non-mammal animal welfare – I am very confident that relying on outside factors to help regulate these turtles’ welfare concerns likely won’t help.

      Whether that’s the media, animal rescue, etc. I think it’s the least likely way for the most ethical solution. First, when it comes to media attention around ethical issues at nonprofits, what does and does not blow up is highly precarious. There’s first the question of if it will even get picked up, and then if it does – if its picked up by a journalist or media outlet who represents it well – and then even if that happens, does it catch any traction? And that is just a crapshoot.

      And then to the point of animal rescue, again – jurisdiction, does this qualify as abuse – which depending on where you are -that bar may be VERY low. Then on both points, you have the issue on whenever you bring in outside parties to intervene on an organization, particularly a mission based nonprofit – and to intervene on a supposedly non-mission based issue (i.e. how staff or animals are treated in the office) – the potential for massive blowback and closing of the ranks is huge. Because you’re taking attention away from the actual mission of what everyone wants to do and now there’s this media or legal distraction.

      All the while, no help may actually be coming to the turtles. I think for a lot of these issues there’s this impulse that reaching out to someone in authority can expedite help. And that really may not be true.

        1. Smithy*

          No problem – and these issues are hard!

          In general I think witnessing a person or animal receive suboptimal treatment is really distressing and when that gets entangled with a mission-based job – that sounds like an utter nightmare. But it’s also true that people really do have a wide range of beliefs around what counts as adequate animal care (and childcare for that matter). And untangling the situation of “boss wants an entire office to rotate care of turtles” is a much larger knot to untie that won’t be fixed by a call to the police and I wouldn’t advise fixing via theft/animalnaping.

          Which leaves the OP with much softer approaches that likely will take more time. There’s the immediate “I can’t take the turtles home with me ever ever BECAUSE” issue to solve and then the greater “this is probably a terrible idea, let’s rehouse these guys” issue. It’s sounds frustrating and miserable, but again, if the goal is the long term health of the animals I can’t imagine a more aggressive approach seeing results.

    9. feral fairy*

      The reptile rescue is most likely not going to swoop in and take the turtle, because they don’t really have the authority to do that. What a reptile rescue will be well equipped to do is meet with the boss or maybe members of the organization’s board and explain all the ways that this is a bad idea from a position of authority on the matter, and they will try to convince the boss to surrender the turtle. From my understanding, that is a lot of what animal rescue looks like. Someone will contact a rescue about a neighbor who’s chaining their dog up outside in the heat all day and the rescue will do outreach to the owner and if it seems like they are ill-equipped to actually improve their pet’s conditions, the rescue will try to convince them to surrender the animal to rescue.

    10. greengirl*

      I actually do think pushing back because of the turtles’ welfare is reasonable. My American theater office had two goldfish that we took good care of because they had originally came to us not as pets but as “set dressing” for a play. Meaning, that they were part of the set decoration. During that play, a lot of consideration was taken for how long the goldfish were under the lights, whether they had the right habitat, feeding them, etc. They then lived for 7 years past that play, taken care of by the theater staff, one of whom came in on weekends to feed them (she lived close by). So let’s not generalize and say that “our office is not equipped to take care of these animals properly” will be an argument that Americans won’t find compelling.

    11. Lizy*

      Weird. I’m in IncrediblyRuralAndConservative area (think, PETA = people eating tasty animals) and people are definitely VERY animal-friendly. I mean, they’re animals, but they’re still living creatures and you need to treat them right.

  22. Stitch*

    This is just bizarre. It reminds me of when my sister brought home the class hamster (thankfully only once as I am extremely allergic).

  23. tinybutfierce*

    The cavalier attitude some people have about animals because “lol, it’s just a dumb animal, etc” make me so sad. On top of how it doesn’t seem like adequate care for them has ever even crossed the president’s mind, I’d have to imagine it would be pretty damn stressful for a turtle to be transported back and forth from home to office every single weekend. :(

  24. lex talionis*

    Maybe after 24 hours of comments someone can print the whole thing and mail it to him/her from the nearest large city.

    Or take it home, set it free and say it ran away?

    1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Please never release non-native animals into the wild. Even captive-bred individuals of native species should never be released without approval from appropriate authorities and the oversight of a veterinarian.

      The ecological crisis in the Everglades (boas and anacondas) and elsewhere in the world (e.g. barking deer in the U.K., lionfish in the Atlantic) are all direct results of irresponsible pet “releases” to the wild.

      1. quill*

        Yep. There are plagues of rusty crayfishes in my hometown in very specific locations and when I randomly solved the mystery of where the hell they were coming from for my envisci professors they were FURIOUS. (Not with me, but with the setup that had allowed it to happen: a local school district imported hundreds of them for a science unit once a year and then euthanized them after the classrooms returned them, so OF COURSE the teachers gave them away to students (whose parents often dumped them in the nearest pond) or released them, and OF COURSE the species being imported was pushing out the native crayfish and OF COURSE the population couldn’t have known better because they looked exactly like the native crayfish anyway…)

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, in the UK we have a problem with signal crayfish, which were introduced about 50 or so years ago to be bred for the restaurant industry but which ended up in the wild. They wreck the natural habitat for our native species of crayfish and also carry a disease that kills the native ones. You can actually get a licence to fish for them in London’s canals, as a sort of desperate attempt to get rid of them!

          1. UKDancer*

            You could not pay me enough to eat anything from a London canal. The water is probably filthy. Good idea though to support fishing for them.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep, red-eared sliders (turtle breed) are invasive in my area because of pet releases. They also are not native around here and don’t always adapt well to the winters, which is another consideration to make.

      3. Radical Edward*

        Seconding this. And unfortunately depending on where LW lives, there might not be a local animal rescue group equipped to handle reptiles any more than LW herself is. (Where I live, it’s all but impossible to find assistance for any animals that aren’t dogs or cats, unless you happen to discover a very devoted individual owner with lots of extra space.) If that’s the case, it’s worth contacting a licensed wildlife rehabilitation group – they couldn’t necessarily take in the turtles but might be more likely to have connections with another org or person who could.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        Also the florida tegus, and the florida pythons. Koi in Australia (that’s a bad one because there’s not really much you can do to get rid of koi once they’ve established themselves- they taste horrific and they’re pretty close to being as omnivorous as your average pig). The goldfish that destroyed that lake in Colorado.

        Just don’t release non-native pets.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’d be concerned that the crazy president would use the identifiable characteristics (elderly mother at home) to try to ferret out the LW.

      I am usually VERY anti anonymous note, but I think that I might consider it in this case, especially given the welfare of the turtles and since the boss is not open to feedback and publicly calls out nonparticipants. I’d also point out that it was sent anonymously because of the president’s past response to negative feedback, too.

    3. WFH with Cat*

      No, please! Never release captive turtles, fish, snakes, or any other species into the wild — even those that are “native” species. Captive animals can carry diseases and parasites that will endanger wild populations. Also, captive animals are not likely to survive due to poor breeding, bad previous care, and lack of the skills to hunt/find food, etc. Bad news, all around.

    4. feral fairy*

      Someone at my college did this with a boa that they had impulsively purchased. The college told them that they could not have the pet in the dorms and they “panicked” and released it into the woods. This was in early March in the Northeast, which is way too cold of a climate for a boa to survive in the wild. I mean, there are a million reasons why what this person did was completely absurd and cruel. Fortunately, someone contacted a reptile rescue right away and they were able to find the boa and save him. But yeah, don’t set any kind of animal in captivity into the wild.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        I mean, that’s just a recipe for someone else finding a boa cosied up in their garage/attic/car/restaurant kitchen…

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      Oh no, please don’t release it into the wild! I know that certain orgs like to push this idea that animals are unilaterally better off in the wild but if an animal has been bred and raised in captivity it is very unlikely to cope well. It isn’t really ‘setting it free’, it’s just abandonment. And that’s assuming that OP even lives in/near an area where turtles could even survive in the wild at all.

      1. closetpuritan*

        Even animals that are from “the wild” don’t do well being released in a different location. In a lot of places it’s illegal to live-trap nuisance animals like squirrels and release them somewhere else, and one of the reasons it’s a bad idea is that they often end up dying if they’re just dumped in an unfamiliar location, especially if it’s a species that’s territorial and they’re likely being dumped in another animal’s territory. Live-trapping and releasing is often a way for people to feel better about it and tell themselves they’re not killing an animal when they actually are.

  25. quill*

    These are terrible conditions for a reptile: they need specific heat and lighting setups and are going to pick up way more germs circulating between households! Please speak on behalf of the turtles, and probably come prepared with information on animal welfare that supports your statement.

  26. 3DogNight*

    Please, please, please do reach out to animal rescue or welfare agencies about this. I can guarantee that these turtles are going to get stressed with all of the changes, and not meeting their needs, and will die. This is not fair to anyone, particularly the animals being used as a “bribe”. Honestly, I’d probably take it home for the weekend, then turn it over to animal welfare and tell everyone it ran away. (I have a friend who has turtles, and they lose them all the time. Found one on a different floor of the house behind the refrigerator, alive and well a month after they lost him. So, yes, they do run away.)

    1. ErinWV*

      When we were kids, my sister caught a wild turtle (a tiny thing) in our backyard and set him up in a cardboard box with some lettuce. We left the box outside overnight, the wind blew it over, and by morning “Sheldon” was history. Yes, we did tell everyone that her turtle ran away.

  27. animaniactoo*

    Omg. I am so sorry LW.

    I cannot stress this point enough:

    you do NOT ASSIGN CARE OF LIVE CREATURES TO PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR ACTIVE AGREEMENT!!!!

    I’m sorry. If they wanted to get AN office turtle, maybe. But this is insane and I wish they had spent the money they spent on those turtles on oh, I dunno. Workroom snacks. A one-time bonus. Anything that actually benefited you.

      1. Old Admin*

        The letter says:
        ” they got every office a turtle to keep and take care of.” That’s more than one!

  28. Bookworm*

    I don’t even know what to say, other than even if you could/wanted to, turtles do require a lot of care (had a friend who had one and I was roped into occasionally turtle-sitting). This is ridiculous.

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through that OP. Good luck to you and the turtles.

    1. pamela voorhees*

      You ever start laughing because it’s either that or scream? Yeah. That’s what I felt reading this. Even Michael Scott didn’t want animals in the office. Literally worse than the textbook sitcom “bad boss.”

  29. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Has covid driven everyone mad? That feels like the only explanation for the letters this week.

    1. linger*

      Somewhere out there a boss is thinking, “We should totally get some ducklings for the office. It’ll be good for morale. They’re cute, everybody loves them. And we should assign a group in each office to care for them, because that’s great for team-building. And we need to give them some cute name … I know! A ‘Duck Club’!”

  30. bunniferous*

    One other comment-I have HAD salmonella before. I was nineteen and I spent 8 days in the hospital. I was bleeding from my intestines, I felt literally as if someone were stabbing me with knives in my stomach, I was running HORRID fevers and I could not eat or drink ANYTHING for days while in the hospital. If I had been older or had preexisting health conditions I could have died. Salmonella is NOT A JOKE.

    Y’all need to speak up.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, in college I had a summer job & one of my coworkers got salmonella from a restaurant. 20, 21-year old guy, healthy, active, all that, and he ended up in the hospital. Salmonella is nothing to play with.

    2. 3DogNight*

      Same! It was horrendous. I literally could not walk after the first 3 hours, I was so weak. I used to wonder how all those years ago those kids died from getting E-Coli (which is just as much fun). I don’t wonder that anymore, I know.

    1. Working for the weekend*

      I’m having visions of this idiot boss gifting the staff little baby sulcata tortoises… UGH.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      My assumption is some variant of slider, because you can usually buy them in bulk? I’ve never seen sulkies or even ruskies in bulk, but sliders you can get like 40 4-inchers for $40 at petco. Usually the tortoises are 1 for ~$100, and 6 inches or larger.

  31. Llellayena*

    I’m somewhat curious if the company invested in all the accoutrements for actually caring for turtles: Tank (of appropriate size), food/water, heat lamp, etc. Or if these creatures are just slowly wandering around the office floor. Having all the extras makes it even harder to haul everything home (especially if someone takes public transportation!) and if the turtles want to stay it would be worth HIRING SOMEONE TO CARE FOR THEM instead of sending them home for the weekend. Like the offices that have decorative fish tanks? It’s a nice thing to look at and enjoy, but caring for them needs to be a paid job, not an “extra” task.

  32. Littorally*

    I don’t know if this guy’s going to win Worst boss of the year, but he’s a strong contender for Weirdest. Turtles, what the actual hell.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Competition’s tough this year (as it seems to be every year), but this should make the list of candidates for sure.

  33. Temperance*

    Okay so learning about “exotic pets” is one of my hobbies, and I’m flabbergasted at this. Turtles need a lot of specific care and a specialized habitat; it’s not like when you host a friend’s cat for a week and just get a litterbox and a cat bed. Turtle care is expensive, too, if you do it right with a proper terrarium, food, etc. (although for the record, I do agree with Alison that turtles shouldn’t be pets).

    There’s really no ethical way to do this and I can’t imagine how your president gets away with things like this. Does the Board just not care?

    1. WFH with Cat*

      Wait, cat’s have beds? Of their own?? Because mine … well, it’s like that old saying, “the best seat in the house is under the cat.”

      (Forgive the tangential response, please! I’m so stressed by the thought of all those turtles and needed to laugh for a minute.)

      1. metadata minion*

        They absolutely sell cat beds, and there is about an 80% chance that any given cat will disdain it in favor of something the humans want to sit on. They’re usually sort of furry bowl type things.

  34. Just Another Squirrel*

    I am 1/3rd deeply concerned about the general wellbeing of these turtles, 1/3rd deeply concerned for also the work wellbeing of all the non-President staff at OPs office, but admittedly also 1/3rd thrilled because getting these kind of stories is exactly what keeps me coming back to Ask A Manager every week in the hopes that someone will submit one of THESE letters.

  35. Wombats and Tequila*

    OMG this makes me so angry, and I own two tortoises and a box turtle.

    If these are actually the swimming kind of turtles, their setup needs at least 10 gallons per animal and the strongest filtration money can buy. Then, dragging them abruptly from one aquatic environment to another twice per week will probably kill them in short order anyway.

    I know of turtle and tortoise rescues in Southern California and New Jersey. If OP can find one in their area, they should come in after hours one day, kidnap the unlucky chelonians, and take them all to a no kill rescue organization. Then they should call all area pet stores and warn them not to sell any more creatures of any nature to this idiot boss, who I guess has escalated to involving animals in her was flexing.

    1. EPLawyer*

      And if they are aquatic, they still need land to hang out on ocassionally. I saw one turtle set up at museum once where it was just a tank of water. The poor things were treading water with all their might just to keep their heads above water so they could breathe.

      Turtles are not a responsibility to be taken on lightly. Hell NO animal is. This boss has lost her damn mind.

    2. 3DogNight*

      Aquatic animals need so much specialized care and their water can’t be tap water. This whole idea is banana crackers.

  36. AndersonDarling*

    How much you wanna bet that the CEO owed someone a favor? And payback was in the form of buying dozens of turtles and habitats on the company dime?

  37. AnonInCanada*

    Just when I finally retrieved my lower jaw after Monday’s WTF story about probing into employee’s medical records, along comes this. I don’t know how many more times my jaw can handle these!

    As for your turtle dilemma, simply tell the boss you can’t afford to care for this turtle in your house, as they need special care that simply cannot be accommodated. If boss gets mad, tough! If boss fires you, I’m sure an employment lawyer would rub their hands with glee on this one! Telling them “My boss fired me because I refused to baby-sit a turtle over the weekend that I couldn’t accommodate and forced upon myself and my coworkers” would make them see dollar signs all over this one!

    1. Elenna*

      Not to mention Mr “Giving me a card is sexual” from yesterday… It’s been an interesting week on AAM, for sure!

    2. Curious*

      While I don’t know how things work in Canada, in the US, most employment is “at will” — which means that, while you can’t fire someone for certain protected reasons (e.g., on the basis of race or sex), it is entirely legal to — and there is no legal liability if you — fire someone for a stupid reason.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      I’ve been thanking the gods that this brainless boss decided on turtles instead of baby alligators, bear cubs, or tiger kittens. Because most folks can outrun, or be assisted in escaping from, a turtle.
      But yea, WUT on EARTH.
      In my evil fantasies somebody gifts this nutty boss an irrepressible parrot with an, ahem, interesting vocabulary and a tendency to join in on Zoom calls.

  38. Old Admin*

    Also, is this a SNAPPING turtle perchance? A lot of those are falsely sold as “pets”. They are actually effing dangerous and can take a finger off!
    I would bet money the company president has no idea just what she bought…

    1. irene adler*

      Bet they’d chew right through wire cables, cords, etc. (that are hopefully not plugged at the time they are chewed through). Just thinking about the possibilities!

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      Well, snappers do defend themselves very effectively. They do hunt for prey, but if you aren’t on their diet, all you have to do to avoid harm is to let them mind their own business without picking at them.

  39. Ann*

    LW, I would push back on this, even if the President is not happy. There is no way the majority of your coworkers/staff would not be relieved by being able to object to this. I agree with contacting a wildlife rescue about the turtle. There is also a possibility that it isn’t legal to own the turtle in your area. Size of the turtle matters (selling of small turtles was outlawed to try to limit the spread of salmonella), unless it is for “educational purposes” which a loon’s whim would not meet that standard. Also, with your mom’s health the risk for salmonella infection is too high. She would not even need to touch the turtle to contract it, she could get it from contact with you after handling/cleaning the turtle or surfaces the turtle touched.
    My only advice is to contact a wildlife rescue, not a pet rescue. They will much more knowledgeable of what to do with the turtle, and even if it is legal for you/your office to keep it.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      As I understand it, wildlife rescues are focused on injured/orphaned wildlife (which are later released if possible), not pets (which have to be rehomed not released). I have know of some that rescued the occasional abandoned pet that but those were species that were really unusual, like a great horned owl that was imprinted on humans.

      A proper pet rescue that works with turtles/reptiles will be better equipped to deal with this particular situation and get the turtles re-homed. And pet rescues should also be aware of species that can’t be kept legally.

  40. Rage*

    Our new payroll app came with a widget called “turtles” – 4 or 5 turtles, swimming in a field. You click/tap and it drops a piece of food to feed them.

    We all played with the turtles for hours. It’s a great stress reliever. Much better than an actual turtle. (Or tortoise.) Tho I will confess to being a herp-lover, so if it were my office, I’d have taken over care of the animal myself.

    1. MsM*

      Reading this after the comments about how the turtles should be accounted for on timesheets gave me a moment of, “Wait, this has happened before? Enough for someone to think it through and make it a category?” But that sounds adorable.

    1. Anonybus*

      Yeah, I think this is at the point where the LW and their coworkers can’t let how the president might feel prevent a collective pushback.

  41. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I mean, I like cats in my office, but that is why I work from home! So that no one else has to like the same things I like!

    1. Bagpuss*

      We have a cat which occasionally visits our actual office.
      It lives in one of the houses behind us, and likes to call in and spend an hour or so snoozing in an in-tray before moving on.
      It knocks on the door if it’s closed.

  42. Ali G*

    OP I assume your non-profit has a Board of Directors? This is something that needs to be elevated about the President. If you can contact a Board member, I would do it, yesterday. The Board needs to know they have a certifiable animal abuser running their org.

    1. Yertle*

      Really good advice. But contact ALL the board members to maximize the chances that they will act. Contacting just one runs the risk that they will try to handle it quietly with the CEO.

    2. quill*

      Also attach any info you have on local reptile-specific laws about how herps can be kept / sold / transported and information about turtle welfare from an authoritative source, just so you can be sure that they KNOW there could be legal or reputational losses involved here.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Good suggestion! My turtle (who is healthy and well cared for) was definitely acquired illegally. We didn’t know that at the time and it all worked out fine, no one is coming after us as private citizens for it. But the PR for a nonprofit could be not-so-good.

  43. TurtleGirl*

    I have had a turtle for 18 years (was given as a gift which is a whole other story…don’t gift animals- especially to unsuspecting recipients! I digress…). They are EXPENSIVE, require a whole host of filtration to keep the water healthy and keep them smell free, frequent water changes, water temp control, special lights… it’s a whole thing! I have often cursed the person who gifted him to me while changing the tank water/ arguing with the filter. This all on top of the salmonella potential… I do not know what they were thinking!! Has the president ever actually OWNED a turtle or just saw the teeny tiny baby ones at Petco and thought they were cute?! I’m beside myself that anyone would do this. Just floored… definitely try to find a rescue…

  44. Esmeralda*

    Turtles don’t need someone overseeing them every minute of the day. They will be fine on their own over the weekend.

    If the boss is so concerned about the turtles, how about HE takes them home? I’m guessing that (1) there is not a turtle in the boss’s office and (2) if there is, the lowest person in the hierarchy is tasked with taking care of it (that would be the female office admin, I betcha)

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Or turtles are the boss’s hobby, and lacking the capability for abstract thought, he takes this to mean everyone loves turtles.

    2. KittyCardigans*

      The boss is a woman. Not to say sexism can’t still apply, but I don’t think it’s so direct as the comment implies.
      I agree that the turtle would probably be okay on its own over a weekend or two until it can be permanently relocated to somewhere that isn’t an office.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes. There’s enough ACTUAL sexism in the world that we don’t need to jump to inferred sexism at every possible opportunity.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not in my office– they turn the HVAC system off overnight which means that it’s really cold by morning in the winter, and really hot by morning in the summer. Over a weekend, it’ll get well out of turtle room temperature.

  45. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I wouldn’t hesitate to step up and state in front of the whole office that the situation is unacceptable. Some things are worth taking a stand for.

  46. Emily*

    This is amazing. I took home mice one over winter break, but it was voluntary and I was ten. This goes way beyond normal levels of dysfunction. I really think this is a “make your direct manager” handle it situation. If it comes up with the president, you can just say that you talked it over with your manager and were given permission, or whatever. Repeat it again if you have to. Be boring!

  47. Richard Hershberger*

    Serious suggestion: Contact the appropriate animal rescue agency, then let the turtle “escape” under vague circumstances with no one in particular responsible for it at that moment. Passive aggressive, you say? Yes. Yes it is. Passive aggression gets a bad rap, but it has its place. Also, no one report the missing turtle to the boss. If he eventually finds out about it, it will be ancient history with the details lost in the mists of time. But he may forget about his turtle brainstorm, making the question moot.

    1. school of hard knowcs*

      “assive aggressive, you say? Yes. Yes it is. Passive aggression gets a bad rap, but it has its place.” I am stealing this line. Thank you

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There wouldn’t be any point in contacting the rescue agency if one were just going to set it loose.

        1. ecnaseener*

          That’s what I thought, but I wasn’t sure if you meant contact them to get the rest after you had set one free or something weird like that.

  48. Emmeileia*

    If we don’t save the wee turtles, who will?

    I did once have a job where the owner’s dog sat in and gave his approval for hiring. But it was for a job WORKING WITH DOGS. Not and office or something.

  49. Ellie May*

    I strongly suggest the Animal Welfare approach for intervention FIRST. If you’ve already declined caring for the turtle and THEN Animal Welfare comes in from a tip all eyes will shift to YOU.

  50. Roy G. Biv*

    Example conversation to have with the president: “Sure, I’ll watch the turtle, as long as I can start bringing my 4 foot long python to work with me. She likes it when I wear her around my neck like a collar. It keeps her warm, plus she likes the view from up high.”

    1. metadata minion*

      I think there’s a substantial risk there that the president will think that sounds like an awesome plan.

  51. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    When I was a child in the 1950s, it was VERY common for stores to sell baby turtles with flowers painted on their shells. Grotesque, but true!

    But there’s one more thing that the ditzy president either forgot or didn’t know: small turtles are very often babies which will grow larger. Red-eared sliders – a very popular choice for pet turtles – can grow to be 10″ to 12″ long! Is the office prepared to properly house and care (including paying veterinarian’s bills) for a turtle that size? Or did the president think it would stay tiny/small throughout its life? In fact, did the president even so much as Google how to properly care for a turtle? Hmm…why do I think this wasn’t planned out very well?!

  52. Forrest Rhodes*

    I’m in favor of anonymously dropping a public dime on the project, and immediately contacting a rescue organization. Maybe the rescue group can organize a mass pickup of turtles on the first take-home weekend?
    And in my personal opinion, the CEO is a moron.

  53. Sabina*

    This is truly a new level of WTF. Poor turtles, please do contact a rescue group or local humane society. I had a boss once who floated the idea of his underlings “volunteering” to take turns pet sitting his dog on weekends he was traveling for work, but it was presented as ” other duties as required ” not as a morale booster for employees. HR put that idea to sleep pretty quickly…

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I didn’t put much effort into her. Actually, she was a tortoise, which doesn’t need water. She was out and about in the garden and in the house, and went through a lot of adventures because of our dogs, horse, and birds. I didn’t buy her but found her, so this way I accidentally became a turtle/tortoise owner.

  54. irene adler*

    Ridiculous!
    I’d volunteer -enthusiastically!- to take that critter home with me. Then I’d turn it right over to the local turtle rescue group. No hesitation whatsoever. Maybe even offer to take home several for the weekend. Cuz I love turtles!

    This is an unwanted pet and is a disservice to said pet. The rescue org will find a good home for it.

    Then show up on Monday with home-made soup for lunch. And tell the bosses it’s turtle soup. Made enough for the entire week. Wanna try some?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      This was my first thought! I would have a quiet discussion with my team of co-turtle-wranglers and arrange to take the turtle to an animal rescue or Herpatology Society or somesuch and that would be the end of it. “How’s the turtle?” “The turtle is GREAT!”

  55. Macaroni Penguin*

    Okay, practice question…… how did the supervisor expense these turtles? It’s a nonprofit company. My mind is horrifically curious on how this was coded and processed through finance.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Nonprofits often have a “staff morale/appreciation” budget of some kind…which is highly ironic in this case.

      1. Macaroni Penguin*

        Right. The turtles could have absolutely been under the “staff moral/ appreciation” budget.
        And no one asked the turtles if their well-being would be improved by this idea!

    2. Emi*

      My advice column fan fiction of this is that they misspent grant money, someone dimes them out to an auditor, and the turtles are seized by the feds.

  56. I edit everything*

    I once worked at a place where the resident of the office next to mine was an 8-foot-long boa constrictor. That was preferable to turtles. And I did not have to bring her home on weekends. Bonus: I got to bring home her shed skin for my son.

    I’m trying to imagine someone who commutes by public transport trying to lug an aquarium home…Nope. Not going to go well. Maybe this is how the TMNT got into the sewers in the first place?

    Repeat: “My home is not safe for turtles.” When Boss insists you take your turn, call a reptile rescue and make arrangements. Issue a final warning before you take your turtle out of the office on Friday afternoon. Then drop it off at the rescue on your way home. Monday morning, you say, “Well, I did say my home wasn’t safe for turtles.”

    1. The Original K.*

      I have a phobia of snakes; I literally could not work there because I’d have panic attacks. I jumped in my seat just reading the words.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Save me some room on your chair, because I’ll be jumping up right next to you. Not quite a phobia but it’s definitely full-blown uneasiness.

        1. I edit everything*

          She wasn’t loose or anything, of course. She had a massive tank, and she pretty much just sat there. Every now and then I’d go in to say hello.

  57. Mental Lentil*

    Step 1: Wait until boss is gone. Take all the turtles to reptile conservation organization that can properly look after them.

    Step 2: Break a ground floor window at floor level from the inside.

    Step 3: Act surprised and shocked that the turtles all escaped!