How to Seal the Deal
October 21, 2008 7:09 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to have a baby seal as a pet? The only domesticated seal I have come across was this one from Russia. I am not sure how else to spend a lot of time with one without owning a large unpolluted lake with other seals, or becoming a marine biologist. Any ideas?

If I had the resources, I would like to rescue all of the seals from becoming fur coats. Having one as a pet may bring me one step closer to that goal. And how could anyone not want an innocent ball of fur flopping around on its back staring at you?
posted by johannahdeschanel to Science & Nature (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You realize that baby seals become big grown-up seals, right?
posted by kimdog at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2008 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Having worked a little with seals when I did a marine biology course, I can tell you that even with training they are wild animals and can inflect a significant amount of damage when disagreeable through clawing and biting. One of the seal trainers I worked with suffered some pretty bad injuries thanks to an angry seal. They also require high quality food and specialized care and habitats that you probably can't afford unless you are some sort of oil heiress. Besides that, it is probably against the law in most places. I would suggest looking for volunteer work with marine rescue organizations. You might have to work your way up (I had to start with cleaning the stringray tanks) though.
posted by melissam at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2008

What is the best way to have a baby seal as a pet?

Open an aquarium.

If you really ARE determined to have a seal in your home, probably the first thing you should do is check whether there are any legal statutes regarding exotic animals as pets in your area. What you'll find -- I'm wagering -- is that owning seals as pets is illegal in your area, because I can't think of a place where it would be legal. And since it's illegal, you therefore would have to abandon this plan.

Sure, you're out a pet seal, but you're also out huge legal fines. Which you can then donate to the World Wildlife Federation and help save seals in the WILD, which is where they all want to live anyway, because seals may not want to be fur coats, but they also don't want to be pets.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2008

Adopt one.
posted by mandal at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The only domesticated seal I have come across was this one from Russia.

Yeah, there's probably a reason for that. The seal in those pictures doesn't look particularly enthused about its situation.
posted by mkultra at 7:37 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

You might want to read this book, where you'll learn that it is not exactly easy to have a seal as a pet even if you do live next to a body of water.

If you live in a coastal area, you might be able to volunteer at a marine mammal rescue organization and have some seal interaction with a lot less headache.
posted by mikepop at 7:42 AM on October 21, 2008

If you want to help seals then give money to a conservation agency that focuses on them. Trying to acquire a wild and dangerous sea mammal as a pet is frankly pretty stupid.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:27 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Move to Orkney. My gran grew up in Orkney and had seals as household companions who would sit around indoors and play with humans.
posted by fire&wings at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2008

I would like to rescue all of the seals from becoming fur coats.

What you'd be 'rescuing' them from is having a normal life.

If you want to help, lots of organizations helping wildlife need money and/or volunteers.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:40 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know that they are only furry like that as babies, right? I can't imagine how a marine mammal that roams hundreds of miles in it's natural habitat would stand a chance of being remotely happy in your home. Even if you lived by a lake, they're not usually salt water. You'd be making one animal unhappy, while nothing changes in the bigger world. Much better to donate time and/or money to an animal/environmental organization.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:42 AM on October 21, 2008

Wow. Do you realize you are talking about removing yet another wild seal from its natural habitat, essentially bringing the species just that much closer to extinction? I say this because the seal will miss out on all the training and sociallization that it would have received from its parents & pack, which makes it less likely to breed successfully - and certainly less likely to become a good parent, passing on those same essential survival skills.

Consider donating money to a conservation fund. You'll do more good for the seals that way, ultimately, which is ostensibly your prime concern.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:24 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: According to some article that might be about that russian seal, that lady is a zoologist who is preparing to re-release that seal in the wild.

Terrible google translation here
posted by Acari at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2008

Best answer: Also, um, somewhat pedantically, a wild animal you're keeping as a pet is tame (hopefully), but not domesticated. Domestication is the process wherein you breed a thing in captivity for generations and select for more friendly/useful characteristics. Taming can be effective if you get the animal really really young, but otherwise it's not very easy. Just because the baby seals are pretty helpless and nonreactive to things doesn't mean that the adult versions of those seals will be similarly so; I'm not up on my seal development, but there may be a critical period in there somewhere.

Maybe you should go touch seals at an aquarium, as people have suggested? Maybe they will have rescue seals that are acclimated to humans, or something.
posted by zusty at 11:11 AM on October 21, 2008

Where are you going to keep it, in the bath? Seriously, I agree with people who suggest adopting one. If it's at the local zoo you can visit it.
posted by mippy at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2008

seriously? is this a real question?

If I had the resources, I would like to rescue all of the seals from becoming fur coats. Having one as a pet may bring me one step closer to that goal.

no, this would not bring you one step closer to the goal of saving seals from hunters. this would bring you one step closer to bringing misery to the life of an animal who belongs in the wild—not with someone who doesn't even know why this is a bad idea.

there are idiots out there who try to keep wild animals as pets all the time. if those animals are lucky, they end up in a shelter for animals who have been abandoned or abused by "owners" who had no idea what they were getting into taking on such animals. if you want to help, get involved with organizations whose jobs it is to help threatened or endangered animals.
posted by violetk at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Assuming you're in the US, you can't. Period. The Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it a federal crime to, among other things, collect marine mammals of any species.

As others have said, even aside from legal barriers, this is not a practical idea for a number of reasons. Bear in mind that seals have very specific husbandry needs. I'll mention some because you or someone else might find them interesting, and to help you appreciate the work that professional marine mammal caregivers do -- not to give you the idea that it's possible. It's not. But here are a few:

They are highly social animals that won't do well alone. You'd need a few. And you'd need to be able to manage the colony's aggression and sex drive issues.

They're very intelligent and need daily enrichment to keep from going stir-crazy -- this would take the form of behavioral training ("tricks") and things to interact with. Heavy-duty chew toys, food frozen in blocks of ice, things like that.

An adult harbor seal eats, if I remember correctly, about 8,000 calories of high-quality fish and squid every day. I believe one of the legal requirements for keeping them is that food fish can't have any missing fins, eyes, or other bodily damage upon thawing, actually.

Seals are big. An adult harbor seal can weigh 200+ lbs. They are dangerous, dangerous animals when they get riled up.

Speaking of an enclosure, a 20,000 gallon salt water pool would be on the small side. A heavy-duty life support system with considerable filtration and constant water quality maintenance would be an absolute must. Not to mention you'd need access to some pretty specialized veterinary service.

If you've read this far and are still saying 'I wish I could give them that', here's what you do. Figure out if you're interested in working to protect individual animals (which is veterinary medicine or animal husbandry) or wild species/populations (which is conservation), or studying them (research), or educating the public about them. Then find a local zoo, aquarium, university, wildlife rehab center, etc. that does this and volunteer your time. Actual jobs in the field are very hard to come by, especially without a lot of experience. This sort of work isn't for everyone but it can be incredibly rewarding.
posted by toxotes at 4:37 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you really want to save baby seals from slaughter, the best thing you can do is boycott Canadian seafood and get others to join in the fight with you. You can read about it here.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:09 PM on October 21, 2008

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