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Skunks as pets

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A pet skunk

Although capable of living indoors with humans similarly to cats or dogs, pet skunks are somewhat of a novelty, and still relatively rare, mostly due to restrictive local and regional laws and the complexity of their diet, habits and care. The highest concentrations of pet skunks (family Mephitidae) are mainly kept in Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United States.

In certain parts of the United States, rescued or surrendered pet skunks can be adopted from licensed animal shelters, non-profit skunk educational organizations (such as the American Domestic Skunk Association), or even licensed breeders who have been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Baby skunk availability peaks during springtime, immediately following the skunk mating season. Rarely, fur farms will offer surplus animals to local pet stores, though the possession of skunks remains widely prohibited across America, without proper licensing and inspection.

Skunks are probably best-known for their ability to shoot foul-smelling liquid from their anal glands as a defense mechanism against potential predators. Most wild skunks will only resort to spraying as a final option if injured by a predator, cornered or otherwise provoked; to save energy, most skunks attempt to appear larger by flaring their tails as a warning, combined with hissing or growling, before fleeing. The mercaptan-emitting scent glands are usually removed in captive-bred or rescued skunks at about four weeks of age, similar to spaying or neutering—procedures which may also be beneficial, for captive skunks, to prevent unwanted offspring (as well as a more calm disposition). However, since 2006, the practice of scent-gland removal has been banned in the UK.


Man with leashed pet skunk in 2007

Skunks are native to the Americas, where several regional forms, species and subspecies are found, having been first-noted within historical records of Christopher Columbus. Skunks were also, reportedly, kept as pets by some Native Americans and First Nations.[1] Farmers valued domesticated skunks for their ability to kill rodents and other pests. Skunk pelts were also used for coats and frequently passed off as marten fur. Before the 1950s, they were sold under ambiguous names such as "American sable" and "Alaskan sable".[2] The courts finally ruled that the customer must be informed of any purchase that contained skunk parts. The skunk fur market subsequently collapsed. Since then, skunks have been mainly bred as pets, or as animals in show.

In the 20th century, most U.S. states outlawed the keeping of wild animals as part of their efforts to stem the spread of rabies. Only about one-third of states continue to allow possession of skunks. In the 1990s, skunk enthusiasts began establishing mailing lists and organized for skunk law reform. In the 2000s, similar initiatives took place in Canada.


Skunks are sensitive, intelligent animals, and like all intelligent animals, temperament varies with each individual. In general, though, skunks have playful temperaments.[3] Skunks tend to be highly curious and will open cupboards that are left unlocked. Some owners have noticed skunks smelling something that was spilled on the carpet long ago, and attempting to dig to find out what is buried there. Like ferrets, their curiosity can lead them into danger, especially if they crawl inside reclining chairs or other machinery.


Skunks and other mammals can contract rabies by being bitten by an infected animal or eating the carcass of an infected animal. Although it is quite rare for domesticated skunks to get rabies, there have been cases in which an uninfected pet skunk bit a person and was euthanized by animal control personnel so its brain cells could be tested for rabies.[citation needed]

In the United States, there is no government-approved rabies vaccine or quarantine period for skunks. In Canada, Imrab 3 was used in a study for off-label use as a skunk rabies vaccine and to date it is not approved for skunk use.[4] If a skunk nips or bites, and the owner can produce proof of vaccination, a 2-week quarantine is required, according to Vivianne Chernoff of Skunks as Pets Canada.[citation needed]

Many countries, such as Japan, require all newly-imported skunks to be quarantined.[5] In 2003, The Guardian reported that the UK lacks sufficient quarantine kennels licensed to hold skunks.[6]



Import permits will not be issued for foxes, raccoons and skunks purchased for import to Canada as a personal pet.[7]

United States[edit]

American laws on skunk ownership vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most states prohibit keeping skunks as pets.

Legal status of skunks as pets
  Legal with permit
  Legal without permit
  Legal in some areas

American skunk dealers earning more than $500 a year on the skunk trade are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS), which has established three classes of licensed skunk dealers.[8] A class A license allows one to breed skunks; a class B license allows one to sell skunks; and a class C license allows one to display them to the public.

Skunk regulations can change from time to time, so prospective skunk owners may want to check with the Fish and Game Commission or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in their state.

Legality of skunk ownership in the United States
State Legality Statute
Alabama Illegal [9]
Alaska Illegal
Arkansas Illegal [citation needed]
Arizona Illegal [10]
California Illegal
Colorado Illegal
Connecticut Illegal
Delaware Illegal
Florida Legal, with permit [9]
Georgia Illegal [11]
Hawaii Illegal
Idaho Illegal [12]
Illinois Illegal
Indiana Legal, with permit [9]
Iowa Legal [9]
Kansas Illegal
Kentucky Legal in some counties [13]
Louisiana Illegal
Maine Illegal
Maryland Illegal [14] §10-621(b)(1)
Massachusetts Illegal
Michigan Legal with permit; outside
cage must be built;
must be bred in Michigan
Minnesota Illegal [16]
Mississippi Illegal
Missouri Illegal [17]
Montana Illegal [18]
Nebraska Illegal [19]
Nevada Illegal [20]
New Hampshire Legal, with permit [21]
New Jersey Legal, with permit. [22][23]
New Mexico Legal, with permit [24]
New York Legal with permit, but
only in limited areas.
North Carolina Illegal [26]
North Dakota Illegal [27]
Ohio Legal, with permit [9]
Oklahoma Legal, but must have import
permit and health certificate.
Oregon Legal, if bought outside of
Oregon, with import permit
and health certificates.
Illegal to sell or trade skunks.
Pennsylvania Legal, with permit [9]
Rhode Island Illegal
South Carolina Permit required since 2004;
previously owned remain legal,
but no more will be permitted.
Illegal to buy or sell skunks.
South Dakota Legal without permit;
only one skunk per person.
Tennessee Illegal [29] TC 70-4-208
Texas Illegal
Utah Illegal [30] R657-3
Vermont Illegal [9]
Virginia Illegal [31]
Illegal [32]
West Virginia Legal, with permit [citation needed]
Wisconsin Legal, with permit [33]
Wyoming Legal (classified as predatory
animals; as such may be kept as
pets, with no license required)
Washington, DC   Illegal


Several activists[who?] are seeking legalization of pet skunks in the jurisdictions where they are currently banned. Their activities have included supporting bills and testifying before legislative panels.

In 2001, Del. George W. Owings III introduced a bill in the Maryland legislature to legalize pet skunks in that state.[35] Several officials spoke in opposition to the measure before the Environmental Matters committee. Mike Slattery, testifying on behalf of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, criticized the idea, saying it would encourage "Bambi syndrome", the tendency to domesticate wild animals. State health officials pointed out that the bill, HB 91, required rabies vaccinations when there is no federally approved rabies vaccine for skunks.[36]

Rabies has, in fact, been a key issue in skunk-related legislative debates. Since wild skunks account for the second-largest number of rabies cases in wildlife in the US, many legislators have been reluctant to allow domestic skunks without an appropriate vaccine on the market. In addition to the problems at the state level, federal organizations set the policy for dealing with accidental skunk bites, which currently requires euthanizing the animal so rabies tests can be performed.

In February 1990, a rabies vaccine called Imrab 3 was approved for ferrets.[37][38] Many skunk advocates believe the vaccine would also be effective for skunks, and are pushing to have it tested for this use. They also favor clinical tests to determine the appropriate quarantine/observation period in case of a skunk bite. This would provide a way to test skunks without the need for euthanasia. According to Aspen Skunk Rabies Research, part of the reason that this research has not been done yet is the high cost of these clinical trials, which would be difficult for drug companies to recoup.[39]

In the early 2000s, People for Domestic Skunks gathered more than 4,000 signatures for its Nationwide Domestic Skunk Petition.[40] According to Aspen Skunk Rabies Research, Inc., the effectiveness of petitions is limited by the fact that many important decisions are made by national organizations.[41] The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians' annual Rabies Compendium sets the procedures for what to do if a skunk bites someone.

In Canada, Mike Freeman of Freeman's Exotic Skunks was ordered in 1999 by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to destroy his entire stock of 100 adult and 700 baby skunks. Although the agency had approved his farm in 1997, the 1998 Fish and Wildlife Act outlawed breeding. Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen ultimately gave him six months to sell or give away the animals in the U.S., saying, "No one wants to see these animals euthanized and that won't have to happen".[42]

In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recommended in 1987 that elective skunk scent gland removal be classified as an unacceptable procedure.[43]


Pet skunk organizations can be a source of useful advice for skunk owners. Some organizations also hold annual skunk shows. Prizes are awarded in categories such as Prettiest Tail, Friendliest, Most Talented, etc.

The American Domestic Skunk Association provides education for skunk owners and the public, 24-hour phone and web support, adoptions, rescue, rehabilitation, shows and events, as well as newsletters, a skunk care guide and a research program.[44]

Owners of Pet Skunks is a non-profit organization whose mission is to better the lives of captive-bred skunks. OOPS has an annual picnic and publishes a quarterly newsletter containing informative articles about skunks, human interest stories, puzzles, information on skunk related laws, and regional and national events.[45]

Skunk Haven Skunk Rescue, Shelter, and Education, Inc. is based in Ohio and provides 24/7 phone and web support, an international network of rescues and rescue supporters, education for new owners, and exhibitions and education programs. The shelter has Federal USDA/APHIS and State permits to accept surrendered pet skunks into the shelter and to perform adoptions nationally; Skunk Haven also maintains a regularly updated list of legal states.[46]

Skunks as Pets has chapters in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Canada, and Germany.[47]



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  2. ^ "Vintage Fashion Guild : Fur Resource : Skunk". vintagefashionguild.org.
  3. ^ Johnson-Delaney, Cathy (1 October 2014). "Pet Virginia Opossums and Skunks". Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. Unusual Exotic Pets. 23 (4): 317–326. doi:10.1053/j.jepm.2014.07.011. ISSN 1557-5063.
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  7. ^ "Importing or Travelling with Foxes, Skunks, Raccoons and Ferrets as Pets". Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 7 February 2018.
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  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Haven State Laws / Skunk Ownership". SkunkHaven. 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
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  12. ^ "Statute 25-236". state.id.us. State of Idaho. Archived from the original on 14 December 2004.
  13. ^ "Administrative Regulations 301 2:081(6)(2)(g)". lrc.state.ky.us. State of Kentucky.
  14. ^ "State Government Sites". govt.westlaw.com.
  15. ^ "Permits to hold wildlife in captivity" (PDF). michigan.gov. State of Michigan. IC 1350-1.
  16. ^ "Section 145.365". revisor.mn.gov. Minnesota Statutes. State of Minnesota.
  17. ^ "Wildlife Code 3". aphis.usda.gov. State Regulations / Missouri. U.S. Department of Agriculture. CSR 10-9. Archived from the original on 4 December 2004.
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  19. ^ "Statute 37-477(2)". statutes.unicam.state.ne.us. State of Nebraska. Archived from the original on 2 December 2005.
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  21. ^ "Fis 800". gencourt.state.nh.us. State of New Hampshire.
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  25. ^ "Chapter 43-B, Article 11, Title 5". nysenate.gov. State of New York.
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  27. ^ "Animal Importation". ND Department of Agriculture. www.nd.gov. State of North Dakota.
  28. ^ Code of Laws Title 47 Chapter 5 Archived 25 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine and Title 50 Chapter 16 Section 50-16-20 Archived 26 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "LexisNexis® Legal Resources". www.lexisnexis.com. Archived from the original on 5 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  30. ^ "R657-3". UT Department of Wildlife. wildlife.utah.gov. UT Administrative Code. State of Utah.
  31. ^ Virginia Administrative Code 4 15-20-50 and 4 15-30-10. See Legality of pet skunks in Virginia
  32. ^ "WAC 246-100-197". apps.leg.wa.gov.
  33. ^ Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 169 and Dept. of Natural Resources Chapter NR 16
  34. ^ "Statute 23-1-101". legisweb.state.wy.us. State of Wyoming. Archived from the original on 12 December 2004.
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  37. ^ "AnimalForum.com: history of domestic ferrets". Archived from the original on 4 December 2004.
  38. ^ "Heartworm Symptoms".
  39. ^ Aspen Skunk Rabies Research, Inc
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  41. ^ "FAQs". Archived from the original on 11 December 2004. Retrieved 20 December 2004.
  42. ^ "SK: Only Canadian Skunk Breeder will be out of Business". Archived from the original on 7 February 2006. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  43. ^ "RCVS Online / k. Mutilations report". Archived from the original on 16 December 2004.
  44. ^ "Scent-Sational Skunks - American Domestic Skunk Assoc. Inc". Archived from the original on 26 November 2004. Retrieved 30 November 2004.
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  46. ^ "Skunk Haven™: State Laws / Skunk Ownership". www.skunkhaven.net.
  47. ^ "Skunk Stuff". www.skunksaspets.com.