If you've fallen down the uniquely-adorable exotic pet wormhole on YouTube or TikTok, or happened to grow up an avid-animal-lover alongside the likes of Steve Irwin, you may have found yourself pining for a cuddle with one stinkin-cute little black and white floof in particular. While Googling what it takes to own one, you might be sad to find that it's illegal in most U.S. states. But things tend to get a little more wild in the south, and actually, you can adopt a pet skunk in Florida from the Florida Skunk Rescue — with the right permits, of course.
Started by Judy Slade in 2004, the Florida Skunk Rescue had humble beginnings as a pet skunk owner noticing a need. Local animal shelters would rarely take in exotic animals being surrendered alongside cats and dogs. With a deep love for the animal, she plopped down a rescue in St. Petersburg rescuing, fostering, and rehoming abandoned skunks before moving it to Old Town in 2005.
Now spearheaded by President Brenda Hoch, Judy departed in 2014 to pursue her love of horses and riding while holding onto the title of VP. As a non-profit, they can afford to spay, neuter, and get in a vet visit for all skunks prior to being adopted. Since their founding, the Florida Skunk Rescue has rescued and rehomed over 300 of the little black and white babies.
Those turning up your nose at the thought of having a skunk for a pet, we hear you. Afterall, who would voluntarily have a pet that has a reputation for being smelly? Domesticated skunks actually eliminate a lot of the potential for smell factor once they've been spayed and neutered, and are rendered unable to spray. When fed a proper diet, they shouldn't smell at all. Unless they get themselves into some messy mischief, of course.
They're also trainable. They can often be trained to use a litter box filled with newspaper or puppy-pad, though there is a chance they won't take to it, just like with any other pet. Hoch says while they're not really big fans of toys, her skunks love to play with empty dog food bags, paper bags, and empty boxes — most will even run on a cat wheel.
"People often ask us what we would compare owning a skunk to and we have to say it’s a total difference experience than any other pet...it’s like having a dog, cat, and laid back ferret all rolled into one." says Hoch, "Most will answer to their name. They are also curious like a ferret, but not as active."
Owning a skunk isn't all sunshine and rainbows though; while they look kind of like an adorable mix between a really fluffy cat and a rabbit, they're more closely related to ferrets, otters, and weasels, and subsequently can have similar mannerisms. Joscelyn Poll with the Florida Skunk Rescue notes that being aware of skunk temperament and behaviors is essential to successful pet ownership.
Poll says that they may not always want to be snuggled or picked up either, nor have a sweet and friendly personality; some may take some time to adjust to the family following adoption, they are capable of making messes, biting, keeping you up at night, as well as killing smaller pets — like hamsters or birds — that they see as prey if you don't keep them separated or supervised.
Those still trying to decide, the Florida Skunk Rescue's website has a page dedicated to helping you answer the question, 'Is a pet skunk for me?', and even offer tons of tips to help make your transition into owning the exotic pet easier.
While owning a skunk isn't for everyone, it can be for the right person. And if you think yourself ready to take the plunge, you'll have to secure a Class III Captive Wildlife Permit from The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission first.
You can learn more about requirements, as well as apply for permits, through the commission's website here. The Florida Skunk Rescue also offers additional information and assistance in obtaining permits. Those needing extra help with the process can contact Brenda by phone at 727-809-0975 or through their website's contact form here.
Once you have your permit, you can submit an application through The Florida Skunk Rescue's website here. They'll review your application, as well as vet you and your permit credentials prior to adoption.
If you've simply always wanted to see a skunk up close, snuggle one, or are looking to speak with avid-owners in person before pulling the trigger on adoption, the rescue regularly travels to attend adoption events, craft shows, and more. They seek to educate interested adopters, answer questions, as well as raise awareness for the rescue while offering the option to hold one for a small donation.
Their next event will be at Canine Estates Flea Market in Dunedin on Saturday, February 18 from 9 am to 2 pm. You can learn more about the event here. Hoch also encourages potential adopters and skunk-lovers looking to see a variety of colored-coats and personalities, to check out their annual Skunk Show, held every October.
What about you — would you ever adopt your very own PePé Le Pew, or do you think that idea STINKS? Let us know in the comments!
Article by Rachael Volpe