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  • Writer's pictureTessa Pacelli

Hermit Crab Rescue at the Jersey Shore

We decamped to the Jersey Shore for these dog days of summer. M (my daughter), is CRAZY for water, loves swimming, body surfing in the ocean, looking for shells, all of it. Her happy place is 100% the water, and observing the sheer joy on her face when she's splashing in the ocean is one of the indescribable amazing experiences of being a parent. And, of course, we have some silly yearly traditions. One of those is a pilgrimage to the epic ode to cheesiness that is Jenkinson's Boardwalk:

Behold the pictures of crazy Mom and Dad and totally embarassed itty-bitty M!

This year, we perfected our skee-ball game, ate a funnel cake, went to the aquarium. But this particular trip to the kitsch took a different turn. More serious. This was the summer of the hermit crab rescue:

Note the painted shells ... this will be important later in the story. Source:

Mind you, we had no idea this Coney Island lite sold live animals. That is, until some family friends returned from Jenkinson's with a "Hermit Crab Hotel" and a few crabs. It looked just like this:

The toxic paint, the plastic, the GRAVEL ... I can't even. SOURCE:

M was enthralled and begged for a hermit crab. I told her to research them, and she came to understand that they are unique and complex pets. They need a tank with proper temperature and humidity, both higher than your average house. They require space and socialization (e.g., they should be kept in groups, never one). The "hotel" above is cruel and deeply inhumane. Buying them as pets only encourages suppliers to kidnap them from their Caribbean homes and plop them here to die from neglect or slow suffocation (they need a certain humidity or their gills collapse). Once we absorbed these facts, we rejected the idea of crabs as pets.

Back on the boardwalk, one store had placed a cage with some crabs. Not many. Maybe people have gotten the memo on these remarkable little creatures and demand has waned.

This was the sales pitch

But M saw the cage and became absolutely hysterical that we needed to rescue them, because these crabs had painted shells. Apparently in her research she saw this PETA expose on the procurement of hermit crabs. She reasoned (probably not incorrectly) that crabs with painted shells were most likely abused and neglected. We repeated that buying them only encourages a bad business, but she argued that THESE crabs were here, and very unhappy (they DID look unhappy), there were only a few of them, and they needed a proper home.

$700 later, six new friends have a proper Crabitat, complete with a tank heater, hygrometer and humidity control, lots of climbing opportunities, a varied diet, three inches of peat for burrowing (which we are transitioning to sand, per our research - thanks Hermits, Hounds, and Horses!), and some nice new natural shells for them to switch into at their leisure.

How it started / How it's going

So ... did we make the right decision? Our hard-earned dollars did support an inhumane trade. And yet, here were actual suffering creatures who needed our help, looking very miserable!

I don't have a good answer. Other people rescue dogs. We like to be original, I guess. These are pets who live for 10-30 years, so ... hermit crabs forever!

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