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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-18-2008, 12:30 PM Thread Starter
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A pet skunk?

I am trying to rally support for laws in Illinois to be changed. My
brother got us a pet skunk for a wedding gift. What a strange thing,
huh? If you didn't know, pen raised (not wild) domestic skunks actually make wonderful house pets. However, after contacting my vet to get all of the appropriate shots I learned that skunks are illegal in Illinois. As it turns out, every law in Illinois results in the killing of the skunk involved. There is an open year round hunting season. Conservation officers and animal
control officers are ordered to have any skunk they are confronted with
killed. Even wildlife rehabbers can lose their license for helping an
injured skunk. In Illinois, genocide is the only way.
I am seeking to have the current prohibition policy amended to allow a
conservative permit policy allowing citizens to have a domestic (pen
raised not wild) skunk as a pet.
Pet skunks are allowed in Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky and 13 other states, but must be killed in Illinois. Please visit this link and use the tools provided on the get involved page. It will only take about three minutes and means life or death to a member of my family. www.skunklaw.com I give permission to cross post this anywhere you think it will help. Even if you are not from Illinois, your comments will help.
Thank You, Dom and Beth Durbin
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-19-2008, 10:24 AM
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The problem is that skunks can be asymptomatic carriers of rabies. Just because they are captive raised is no guarantee that they are free of it. They can get it from their mother in the womb. Saying it rarely happens is fine, but the only cure for rabies in humans ...is death. When you are dealing with something so very dangerous, you don't take chances, ...even small ones.

There is no such thing as a 'domestic skunk'. Skunks are not domesticated animals. They are wild animals that are sometimes kept in captivity. There is no rabies vaccine that is certified for use in skunks. Therefore, to protect the public health, any skunk that is involved in any 'incident' whatsoever that could potentially involve rabies transmission has to be euthanized and checked for rabies.

Up 'til now, relatively few cases of human rabies are attributable to skunks. However if skunks were to become a desired pet through legalization there might be some people who would breed them as potential sources of revenue.This would no doubt encourage more people to try and take from the wild. Thereby increasing the odds of humans coming into contact with rabid skunks.

While a skunk might be an interesting pet for some people, it's not for everyone. I don't think they (or any wild animal) should be made available to the general public. Personally I think wild animals should stay wild. I'm not a fan of attempting to domesticate wild animals just so people can have neat pets.


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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-20-2008, 02:35 AM Thread Starter
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I agree with much of what you said. But there is more of it that I would like to bring you up to speed on.
Asymptomatic carriers is a wives tale that is not backed by science. Every unvaccinated skunk used in a control group and infected with rabies as a test died in a shorter time than the species' known gestation period. No mom, no kit, all died, none born infected. (sad, but necessary to test vaccine)

As far as a vaccine goes, there are only nine species of mammals with a USDA approved vaccine. The rest use an effective one. The only difference between effective and approved is dead animals and money, but with uneducated extremists in the animal rights and welfare movements, companies are not likely to further studies. You would not either if psycho's were sending you death threats. Canada has proven the effectiveness of Imrab3. US politics make licensing very difficult here. We tend to care more about reputation and money than the betterment of the animals.

Striped skunks were the first domesticated companion animals in the US. They have been raised in captivity for over 200 years. The longest running family farm has been in business rabies free for over 65 years. The difference in these and the wild ones can be explained by color mutations and domestic behavior. This is the same as your domestic dog breeds. If the quarter horse is America's horse, the domestic skunk is America's pet.

According to what you are saying, ferrel cats are wild. And, according to the US CDC, a far greater risk to human health. Don't get me wrong, I love cats, but they are at the top of the CDC's list for rabies in domestics.

Everyone knows ban laws do not work. Criminals will remain criminals. Prohibition policies have always proven to inspire illegal taking from the wild, black market trade, and a very alarming lack of vetrenary care for the animal banned.
You are right about one thing though, a person should do considerable thought and planning before allowing themselves to be adopted by a domestic skunk. They are cute, but not for everyone. I agree with you about leaving wild skunks in the wild though. Thet are a risk and should be left only to careful reaserchers.
By the way, please state your sources if you are going to rant.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2008, 12:39 AM
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I don't know anything about skunks, but I know a lot about science. Disease is a serious issue. If skunks are a reservoir species (ones that get sick but show no symptoms...yes, this is true and it does happen with other diseases) then this will obviously not work. I'd like to see some studies done to test the effectiveness of vaccinations and if they are proven to not work, why not find one that does? Or develop a rabies test that is simple and doesn't require death. Also there should be strict pedigree requirements to show that these skunks have been bred in captivity for a long time and not nabbed from the wild. I can see how this could work, but I can also see drawbacks.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol8no12/01-0317.htm - tells about "infectious agent" being "nonpathogenic to the reservoir host species"

A good virus doesn't kill it's host quickly. Reservoir hosts are important to the "survival" of a virus.


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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2008, 06:49 AM
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The incubation period of rabies in skunks can be a long time. A paper presented at Veterinary Public Health Association Meeting in Eastbourne in 1969 stated: "The incubation period of rabies in striped skunks ranges from 14 to 130 days with a mean of about 35 days." (Parker & Wilsnack, 1966). That is significantly longer than most animals. Another, more recent study, showed incubation periods of 20 to 62 days. If I was bitten by someone's pet skunk, I don't think I'd be willing to wait 62 days before starting post exposure rabies vaccinations!

Further, another study showed viral RNA two months after the animals were inoculated with rabies (NOT inoculated against) with still no sign of viral infection. These studies show that we don't know everything about how rabies works in skunks. It also shows that purchasing a healthy animal would be no guarantee that it couldn't later share rabies virus with you are your children.

Even though there may be different stages in the viral development at work here, the whole thing comes down to the fact that a skunk that has been infected with rabies can carry the virus a fairly long time before manifesting the disease symptoms.

That's hardly an 'old wives tale'.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between effective and approved vaccines. If a company hasn't gone to the time and trouble (and expense) to PROVE a vaccine is safe and effective, ...then it shouldn't be considered legal to use that vaccine. ESPECIALLY when we are talking about a disease as deadly as rabies.

'Off label' use is just a waste of money. Your skunk will still be killed for examination if it bites someone.

I don't see how what I said in any way applies to cats, except for maybe lions and tigers... Domestic cats have been used as pets since before the Ancient Egyptians. Dogs, cats, goats, etc have had thousands of years of genetic manipulation to become the animals they are. Skunks are wild animals that have been tamed. Despite the family that breeds them, taking an animal from the wild intermittently for 200+ years is not domestication.

I disagree with you about wild animal bans. They do work, and they can be effective when enforced. I've seen the laws work first hand. I work in a zoo and have worked with endangered species and my wife is a federal wildlife officer.

I'm glad you are an advocate of skunks, they are an unappreciated but worthy little animal. But legalizing them is just not a smart thing to do. Most people that would get them are just not qualified to have them. Unfortunately, in this society we have to cater to the lowest common denominator. Now if you were to advocate something like the legal requirements for falconry, I might think otherwise.

...And just so you know, I like skunks. I like them a LOT more than feral cats. If you hang around a bit, you'll find that my feelings on feral cats are not the most popular around here.


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companion animals, endangered species, feral cats, gestation period, wild animal, wild animals

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