Pasadena City Employee Saves Runaway Turtle from Uncertain Fate, Returns to Grateful Owner

Published : Monday, July 29, 2019 | 4:42 AM

Pasadena Public Works employee Ralph Fernandez went above and beyond by saving this adventuresome turtle out in traffic. In true hero style, Fernandez modestly declined our request for a photo of himself for this story. Image courtesy of the City of Pasadena.

An animal-loving City of Pasadena employee saved a lost turtle from an uncertain fate last Tuesday morning.

Refuse truck driver Ralph Fernandez, an animal lover and 11-year employee of the Pasadena Public Works Department, was driving his truck down the 2100 block of Monte Vista about 10:30 a.m. when he came across a large turtle in the middle of the street.

Fernandez carefully drove around the runaway Testudine and pulled over. Fearing the adventurous shellback would be run over, he jumped out of his truck, lifted the turtle to safety and placed him in nearby grass.

Fernandez then contacted the City’s Citizen Service Center, which in turn contacted the Pasadena Humane Society.

“Because turtles can go under fences it’s not uncommon for turtles to stray,” said Jack Hagerman, communications director for the Pasadena Humane Society. “We’re overrun with turtles and that’s true all year ’round. We generally have at least a dozen of them at the shelter.”

While waiting for the Humane Society to arrive, Ralph took it upon himself to go door to door to see if anyone knew where the turtle lived.

The errant turtle was facing time at the Humane Society, where within 10 days he would have to be claimed or put up for adoption.

“When a turtle comes in stray, we put a hold on them like any other animal, to give their owners a chance to come in and reunite,” Hagerman said. “After that we put them up for adoption.”

There is an impound fee for owners who want to reunite with animals who have been brought in to the shelter, Hagerman said.

“The best thing to do if you find a turtle is get it off the road and to a safe place,” Hagerman said. “If you find one and you want to reunite it with its owner, with turtles, often they are owned by someone in the neighborhood. We recommend taking it home keeping it in a safe place, giving it vegetables to eat and putting signs up around the neighborhood and they’ll likely be quickly reunited with the owner. Or you can bring them here and we will help.”

But after a little local investigative work and talking to people at four nearby homes, Fernandez found the turtle’s grateful owner.

“They absolutely did the right thing by contacting us, but we support that he went out and found the owner on his own,” Hagerman said. “Like all of us, turtles like to go out for a stroll and so this actually happens often. The good news is turtles are not super fast-moving so they’re easy to catch up to. When a resident can take it upon themselves to find a pet’s owner we support that.”

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