“Dedicated to education, rescue and captive breeding,” the motto of Northwest Tortoise leads to a natural conclusion that a nonprofit status fits the mission.
After two years of being a for-profit company, Northwest Tortoise decided to change its status for several reasons. The primary reason is money. How can education and rescue be a priority if the underlying mission is to make money? The resources dedicated to educating the public, taking care of unwanted tortoises, and working with potential new owners seem incompatible with a money-making venture. Second, the rescues have increased more than expected. Northwest Tortoise is one of the few, if not only, rescues in the Eastern Washington area and word has spread.
The problem with money
Money turns animals into commodities such as a toy. If someone buys a toy it does not matter if it is mistreated or abused. It’s not alive. Animals are not commodities; they are living, breathing beings that deserve appropriate homes and responsible owners. A typical reptile transaction takes five minutes. Choose the reptile, get a care sheet, exchange money and done. The buyer is no more prepared for ownership than they were pre-sale (regardless of the care sheet).
Early on, Northwest Tortoise was surprised to learn many vendors are willing to risk poor care and loss of an animal as a result of little investment in the transaction and the need to make a profit. This compromise became a determining factor for organizing as a non-profit, and developing a process NW Tortoise follows to set potential owners up for success. The life of the tortoise should not be at risk from poor care or lack of knowledge. A business philosophy that generates profits and turns animals into a throwaway commodity when “…some (animals) are doomed. You talk to a guy for 30 minutes and you can see they just don’t get it. You give them a care sheet and hope for the best.” Northwest Tortoise does not agree with this and may turn potential buyers away to do more research or reassess their ability to own and care for a tortoise.
Creating rescues is preventable
Unfortunately the “profit philosophy” can result in a lot of rescues. Ninety percent of the reasons NW Tortoise receives rescues is ”we didn’t realize how big they would get; we didn’t know how to take care of them correctly; or we just lost interest.” NW Tortoise will always offer help and information if the owner is interested, but many times they are fed up, or no longer have interest in continuing care. This is why education is such an important part of the mission: If you educate the buyer the chances of surrendering an animal is greatly reduced. Word has spread of a rescue in Eastern Washington and the volume continues to climb.
Being a nonprofit will allow NW Tortoise to be the go-to for tortoise information in the Northwest. Continuing the mission of educating, rescuing and captive breeding will allow for quality animals to find their forever homes.