PHOENIX — For some, a dog or cat will do just fine. But for others who are considering adopting something uniquely Arizona, say hello to your next family member: a captive Sonoran desert tortoise.

“Many people don’t even consider opening up their homes to desert tortoises, but they make fantastic and personable pets,” said Tegan Wolf, Arizona Game and Fish Department Desert Tortoise Adoption Program coordinator. “It’s rewarding to hear stories from those who have adopted a captive tortoise and made them part of the family because they’re a unique alternative to traditional family pets. They offer many of the same life lessons to children and can provide just as much companionship and personality as a dog or cat.”

Due primarily to illegal breeding, the department has dozens of tortoises of varying ages and sizes available for adoption. Captive tortoises grow up to about 14 inches long and can live upwards of 80 years, however, they cannot be released back into the wild because they could spread diseases that harm wild populations.

Watch a video on how to build a tortoise shelter

Arizona residents interested in providing an adoptive home can submit an online application at and find an information packet on how to properly care for a tortoise, including instructions on how to build an enclosure/burrow. Those applying to adopt a tortoise will be contacted by the department once their application is reviewed and approved.

Adopters must have a securely enclosed yard or construct a separate enclosure/burrow to protect the tortoise from potential hazards such as a fire pit, unfenced pool or dogs. The enclosed area must include an appropriate shelter for the tortoise to escape Arizona’s extreme summer heat and a place to brumate — a seasonal period of inactivity similar to hibernation — during

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