Can You Own A Pet elephant?

Can you own a pet elephant? The answer is obvious: No, elephants don’t make good pets. Yet they are illegal to keep in many countries. So you would need to take a lot of hurdles. But the worst part is that elephants are very sad in captivity. Just think of the pictures you have in your mind of circus elephants.

Herd of elephants

Is It Legal to Own an Elephant?

The majority of states in the United States of America do not allow ordinary households to own a pet elephant. However, the state of Mississippi does allow you to own an elephant as long as you get a permit [1]. Yet, the permit requirements are difficult to attain and each permit is only viable for one year at a time.

In the state of Nevada, you can actually own an elephant without needing a permit or a license. In Ohio, it is illegal to own a pet elephant without a permit. Rhode Island laws also require you to get a permit to own an elephant. The permit requires you to have adequate housing for the animal as well as proof of knowledge on how to care for an elephant.

Tennessee has outlawed the ownership of elephants, such as an Asian elephant or an African elephant. However, Tennessee does not prohibit owning a pet giraffe and does not require a permit for this type of animal. The states of Washington and West Virginia have outlawed owning a pet elephant as well.

Elephants Aren’t Domesticated

Elephant standing in mud

Elephants are generally wild animals and do not do well in captivity including in zoos or circuses. Elephants are not domesticated animals and would not make good pets for the average household. 

While circuses and other entertainment venues have tried to domesticate elephants and claim to have tamed these animals, the truth is that elephants can’t be house-trained the same way as cats or dogs [2]. Domesticated animals need to go through human breeding for at least 12 generations. 

Domestic breeding often targets specific traits, such as:

  • Size
  • Behavior
  • Strength
  • Overall appearance

Selective breeding can make an animal much easier to handle than those bred in the wild. Yet, it takes much longer than even one elephant’s lifetime to become tame. It’s rare for an elephant to be bred to become domesticated. Most elephants are not tame or house-trained. 

This is rather similar to lions, which can be wild, dangerous, and aggressive animals. Therefore, elephants would not make good pets for a typical household. 

Elephants’ Lifespans in Captivity are Decreased

Wild African elephants live anywhere from 60 to 70 years when living in the safari. However, elephants’ lifespans are decreased when they live in captivity [3]. The median lifespan of zoo-born captive Asian elephants is only 19 years while the median lifespan of these elephants in the wild is 42 years.  

Since elephants need anywhere from 30 to 50 miles to roam around every day, the smaller space in captivity can lead elephants to develop health problems.

These issues are known as captivity-related diseases, which include lameness and arthritis as well as repetitive behaviors. These strange repetitions can indicate trauma, boredom, and stress. Furthermore, these animals can become obese when living in captivity, which can then cause cardiovascular issues for elephants.

The lack of ability to walk and roam around large prairies and safaris gives captive elephants a higher risk of obesity. As such, it is much better to let elephants live in the wild instead of keeping them captive in zoos or to purchase even a mini elephant to keep as a pet.

Elephants Need Large Family Structures to Benefit Their Mental Health

Elephant family on grass

Furthermore, it is truly negative for the mental health of elephants to keep them in a solitary environment without other elephants nearby. Even in a zoo, elephants are usually surrounded by only two or three other elephants. However, in the wild, elephants live in packs of at least eight to as many as 100 other elephants.

In addition, baby elephants are supposed to live with their mother for at least 15 years of their young lives. The complete herd of elephants protects baby elephants from predators and other dangers. At 15 years of age, male elephants may leave the herd to either live alone briefly or live with other male elephants.

Since elephants in the wild have complex and large family structures, it is inconceivable to keep them in solitary captivity or around only a few other elephants. If you purchase an elephant as a pet, you are likely taking that animal away from its family and herd. 

You’ll be keeping that pet in solitude, which would harm its mental health. For the well-being of all elephants, you should avoid keeping them as pets.

Elephants Need Dozens of Miles of Space to Roam Around

Baby elephant running around

Wild and exotic animals often need much more space to live in than the typical domesticated pet like a rabbit, dog, or cat. For example, pet seals need a very large pool to swim around in. Personally, I know that I could never have a large exotic animal as a pet, like an elephant, hippo, or rhino, since I barely have enough space in my home for a dog.

Most people would not have enough space to ensure elephants get the right amount of exercise and ability to walk around. Even zoos do not always have enough room for elephants to walk around and stay healthy. The reason is that elephants in the wild tend to walk anywhere from 30 to 50 miles per day.

As such, you’ll need land that takes up several dozens of miles so that your pet elephant has enough room to roam around. Since most people don’t have this much property, elephants would not make good pets for the average family.

There Are No Pet Elephants For Sale

Do you still want to buy an elephant? Well, if you want to find a place that sells pet elephants, you’ll have a nearly impossible task in front of you. There are no stores or merchants with pet elephants for sale. 

Even if you were able to find an elephant to buy as a pet, the price would be insurmountable. Additionally, you likely would not be able to afford the cost of taking care of this animal.

To ensure an elephant has a longer lifespan as well as better physical and mental health, it is best to leave this animal in the wild. You should avoid getting a pet elephant for its own well-being.