To The Daily Sun,
I am writing hoping to find support within this community to redress a grave injustice.
I am writing about the cruelty to animals situation going on at Camaro Heaven, a used car parts dealer in Tilton. Probably many people reading this will instantly know what I am referring to. I am referring to the large snapping turtle stuck in a very small enclosure.
I first saw this when I went to Camaro Heaven a few years back looking for a car part. I was struck at how this turtle was kept continually under water when I know turtles are amphibians which like to spend time on land as well as water. The only way it could breathe was by swimming up to the top of the tank and sticking its head above water. Also it had no room to move. All it could do was bob up and down and swim a foot or two in either direction. I know in the wilds snapping turtles walk hundreds of miles and stay very active.
I mentioned to a coworker at the time how appalled I was at what I had seen. I said why don't they let it out once in awhile. And he told me they did let it out once and the animal was so desperate not to be recaptured it took them three days to get it back in. After I heard this, I was sick. I called the game warden and he went up and checked it out and told me everything was fine because the turtle was eating. According to him, if an animal is eating, it's okay. I thought that was ridiculous. The job of the game warden is to make sure wild animals are not being treated in ways contrary to their nature. If any animal ever was, it was this turtle. But that was his determination and there was nothing else I could do but write to the owner of Camaro Heaven directly and beg him to have pity on this poor animal. He didn't write back.
This all took place over five years ago. Today I happened to mention to a coworker at my current job that I had been thinking about the turtle again lately and she said she just happened to be at Camaro Heaven the other day and saw the turtle and was horrified. Apparently, its grown and is now so big it literally cannot turn around in it's tank. She said the shell is literally stuck up against the sides of the tank to the point where the shell is compressing into itself. I told her about my experience of a few years ago. At that point we asked each other what can be done. She decided to call the game warden to ask if he could check on the turtle again. She got on the phone right then and there and called and spoke to him. He said he checks the turtle once a year and he was just there and "it's eating so it's fine." That again. Then he said he was there another time, not in his capacity as game warden when the owner of Camaro Heaven was having some kind of problem, and he saw the turtle and it was fine. From this my coworker concluded, rightly I think, that the two of them are friends and that's why the game warden is turning a blind eye to the suffering of this animal.
My coworker called WMUR to see if their news program could send some reporters and a camera in. They said since the game warden said it was alright there was nothing they could do. They said they could have a legal issue if they went in. That doesn't sound right to me. Isn't that what news organizations are for, to check up on the government, not just rubber stamp it? If no news reporter ever questioned the decision of a government agent, we would never find out when they do something wrong. Isn't that the whole point of having a press?
Anyway, she next called the Humane Society. She is awaiting word from them. They don't think they can do anything but maybe they might have some ideas about what else to do. I know a lot of people who have seen that turtle are appalled at what they've seen. I've spoken to others along the way who feel the same way. Something has to be done. Even the United States Department of Agriculture is rethinking the treatment of factory farm animals and implementing new rules on how pigs and chickens are raised to give them more space. And these are animals raised for food. They are not pets, but people are beginning to realize that even if they are just being raised for food, they still are sentient beings who deserve not to be tortured while they're alive.
Well, this turtle is ostensibly a pet. And as far as I can tell, he's being tortured. Why have a pet if you just want to abuse it? My hope is that this turtle can be taken from the owner and released into the wild. I think at this point he's been through enough. He deserves not a bigger tank, but to get his life back. He's paid his dues. I think he's entitled to some enjoyment of life. Turtles live a long time. Something has to be done so he doesn't spend another 50 years in misery. If anyone has any ideas on what can be done, I would love to hear them. I think organized public pressure could solve this situation. To start with how about a bumper sticker that reads, "Camaro Heaven is not heaven for a certain turtle."
And I think something needs to be done about a game warden who is able to get away with not doing his job.
(Editor's note: The Daily Sun visited the turtle and interviewed the owner. The story was published on July 5 and is available online at http://www.laconiadailysun.com/newsx/local-news/96127-snapping-turtle)