Seal Ownership: Can You Legally Keep Seals as Pets?

Can You Legally Have Seals as Pets

Have you ever been fascinated by the playful stunts of seals and wondered if you could have one as a pet? This blog post delves into whether keeping seals as pets is legally and ethically feasible, covering everything from legal restrictions to the practical challenges involved.

Understanding Seals: More Than Just Cute Faces

Seals are a type of large marine mammal that lives in oceans around the world. They are known for their sleek bodies and flippers, which help them swim easily in water. Scientifically, they belong to the family Phocidae within the order Carnivora. This family encompasses various species of seals, each adapted to its specific marine environment.

Seals are different from other marine mammals like dolphins and whales because they can come onto land, often seen lounging on beaches or rocks near the ocean for activities like resting or having their babies. Seals primarily eat fish and other sea creatures and are known for their playful behavior and intelligence. Seals are often seen lounging on beaches or rocks near the ocean. There are many different species of seals, varying in size, color, and habitat.

Can You Have a Seal as a Pet

Seals are wild animals with specific needs that are difficult to replicate in captivity. They require large aquatic spaces and specific diets, and their social nature necessitates interaction with other seals. These factors highlight the importance of preserving their natural environments and the challenges associated with keeping them in domestic settings.

Also Read: Do Owning Exotic Animals Make Good Pets?

Can You Legally Keep Seals as Pets in the United States (US)?

In the United States, keeping seals as pets is generally illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972. This federal law prohibits the “take” of marine mammals, which includes capturing, harassing, killing, or attempting to capture or harass any marine mammal in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas. The Act also prohibits the import, export, and sale of marine mammals and marine mammal parts and products within the United States.

The MMPA makes exceptions for certain activities such as scientific research, public display by qualified institutions like aquariums and zoos, and subsistence use by Alaskan Natives. These activities require specific permits, and the regulations are stringent.

Private ownership of seals by individuals for personal reasons, such as keeping them as pets, does not fall under the exceptions provided by the MMPA. The Act was established to protect marine mammals from exploitation and to help maintain their healthy populations in the wild.

Therefore, in the context of personal pet ownership, keeping seals as pets in the United States is not legal. This law makes it almost impossible for private individuals to own seals as pets legally​​​​. The legal restrictions are in place not only to protect the welfare of these wild animals but also to preserve their natural habitats and the balance of marine ecosystems.

Can You Legally Keep Seals as Pets in the United Kingdom (UK)?

Legally keeping seals as pets in the United Kingdom (UK) is complex. While there’s no specific law that prohibits owning seals as pets in the UK, there are several considerations and regulations that make it highly impractical and potentially illegal. Seals require large aquatic spaces and a specific diet and are not domesticated animals, making them unsuitable for a household setting.

Additionally, wildlife protection laws, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act, govern the welfare of wild animals and their habitats, which could impact the legality of keeping seals as pets​​​​​​.

In the UK, the welfare and protection of wildlife, including seals, are governed by various laws. The most significant is the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which protects wild animals and their habitats. Although seals are not currently listed in Schedule 5 of this Act, which would protect them from intentional disturbance, there have been calls for such inclusion, as noted by the Seal Research Trust and Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. This would enhance legal protections for seals and possibly restrict their ownership as pets​​.

Can You Legally Keep Seals as Pets in Australia?

In Australia, it is illegal to keep seals as pets according to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This act prohibits injuring, keeping, killing, moving, taking, or trading any marine species in Australian waters, Australian Government land, or Commonwealth waters without a proper permit. State legislation may also apply, but generally, the prospects of legally owning a pet seal in Australia are not favorable due to these regulations.

Practical Challenges: Things To Know Before Owning a Pet Seal

The practical challenges of keeping a seal are immense. They need large aquatic spaces, and their diet, mainly consisting of fresh fish, is not something you can easily procure from a pet store. Seals are not domesticated animals and can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially considering their size and strength​​​​.

Let’s look at some of the things you will need to own a seal as a pet.

  1. Size and Space: Seals are large animals requiring extensive space, including a large saltwater pool and a suitable land area.
  2. Diet: They have a hefty appetite, eating about 5% of their body weight daily in fish, which can be costly.
  3. Safety Risks: Seals can be dangerous; they are strong animals with the potential for aggressive behavior.
  4. Specialized Care: Caring for a seal demands specialized knowledge and resources, and they have complex health and welfare needs.
  5. Legal and Ethical Considerations: In many regions, keeping a seal as a pet is illegal or heavily regulated due to ethical and conservation concerns.

Ethical Considerations: The Welfare of Seals

Ethically, keeping a seal as a pet raises significant concerns. Seals are highly social, intelligent creatures that require interaction with their kind. In captivity, they often suffer from social deprivation, leading to behavioral problems. Moreover, many seal species are endangered, and the pet trade can exacerbate their plight​​​​.

Health and Safety: Risks to Humans

Owning a seal poses health risks to humans. Seals can carry diseases transmissible to humans, such as leptospirosis and salmonella, and their sharp teeth and powerful jaws can cause serious injuries​​​​.

Social and Ecological Impacts: Beyond Individual Welfare

Removing seals from their natural habitat for the pet trade can disrupt marine ecosystems, leading to ecological imbalances. It can also harm seal populations by reducing genetic diversity and causing inbreeding​​.

Alternatives to Pet Ownership: Ethical Ways to Enjoy Seals

Seal in Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Seal in Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

For those captivated by seals, there are ethical alternatives to ownership. Visiting accredited zoos and aquariums or engaging in wildlife conservation efforts allows for appreciating these animals without the moral dilemmas of pet ownership​​.

For those interested in seals but unable to own one as a pet, several alternatives exist:

  1. Visiting Zoos and Aquariums: Many zoos and aquariums house seals and offer educational programs about them.
  2. Participating in Wildlife Tours: Guided tours in regions where seals are native can provide opportunities to observe them in their natural habitat.
  3. Supporting Conservation Efforts: Contributing to organizations that focus on marine conservation can be a fulfilling way to help protect seals and their environments.
  4. Volunteering: Some conservation projects or rescue centers may offer volunteer opportunities to work with seals or other marine life.

These alternatives allow for engagement with seals without the challenges of pet ownership.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

How many seal species are there?

As of my last update in April 2023, there are 33 recognized species of seals that belong to the family Phocidae. These species vary widely in size, habitat, and behavior. Seals are found in a range of environments, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic to more temperate coastal waters. Each species has adapted uniquely to its specific environment, leading to a diverse array of seal types across the world’s oceans.

Where can I buy a pet seal?

It’s important to clarify that buying a seal as a pet is generally not legal or ethical. Seals are wild animals and are protected under various wildlife conservation laws globally. Keeping a seal as a pet would require specialized care and an environment that replicates their natural habitat, which is difficult to achieve in a domestic setting. Furthermore, the trade and ownership of seals are regulated by international treaties and national laws in many countries.

What are the legal requirements for owning a pet seal in the US?

In the United States, the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the ownership of seals as pets​​.

What kind of accommodations are needed for a pet seal?

Seals require large aquatic spaces, a naturalistic environment, and a diet mainly of fresh fish​​.

Can seals be good pets?

Seals are generally not suitable as pets due to their complex care requirements, large size, and natural wild behavior. They need specialized diets and expansive environments, both aquatic and terrestrial. Additionally, their unpredictable behavior can pose safety risks. Legal and ethical considerations also make keeping seals as pets problematic in many regions.

Where can I buy a pet seal?

Buying a pet seal is generally not feasible due to legal restrictions, ethical considerations, and the specialized care they require. In many regions, buying and keeping seals as pets is illegal. Moreover, obtaining a seal from a reputable source would be extremely challenging, even if it were legal, as they are not typically bred or sold for private ownership.


In conclusion, while keeping seals as pets might seem appealing, it is fraught with legal, ethical, and practical challenges. Seals are wild animals that belong in their natural habitat, not in a domestic setting.

About the author

Austin Cannon

Austin Cannon

Austin Cannon, editor for The Spruce Pets and Daily Paws, is a seasoned journalist with a background in award-winning reporting for publications. Austin joined The Exotic Pets in December 2023. Austin holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from Drake University (2016). He edits and produces most of the site’s content and trending stories, giving pet owners daily joy and knowledge.