Although it's legal to keep tortoises as pets in California, owners need to apply for a permit to own desert tortoises that are native to the area. Sulcata tortoises, hailing from Africa, are exempt from this permitting process -- but they are not necessarily the ideal pets for every family.
The American Tortoise Rescue cautions that sulcata tortoises can live up to 50 years and tip the scales at 200 pounds. There's a surplus of sulcatas in rescue centers, says American Tortoise Rescue co-founder Susan Tellem, the result of owners who don't know how to handle giant reptiles that "easily move furniture" and enjoy digging yards until lawns start to look like "minefields." If you have the space for a sulcata tortoise, don't go to a breeder, she urges, but adopt one from a rescue center.
[Photos via the Alhambra Police Department]