House spurns skunks as pets

A Senate-passed bill that would legalize the keeping of skunks as pets in Tennessee failed on the House floor Monday evening after coming in for criticism from state veterinarians.

The bill (SB1821) had passed the Senate 27-3 on Feb. 17. But when sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, brought it to the House floor Monday, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Hendersonville, promptly asked him about veterinarian objections.

Skunks are rabies carriers, she said, and there is no vaccine against rabies for skunks.

Faison disputed that proposition, contending there is a vaccine — though it’s “off-label.” And he said there has never been a case of rabies from pet skunks in 17 states that now allow keeping them as pets.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, also spoke against the bill. Jones said she had a pet skunk “as a kid” and “no matter what they remove it still smells like a skunk. And they have very sharp teeth.”

When the bill came up for a vote, it got only 44 yes votes while 38 voted no and the rest either abstained or simply didn’t vote. A bill needs 50 yes votes for passage.

Note: News release from the veterinarians association is below.

News release from Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association
“As a matter of public health, skunks do not make ‘safe’ or ‘good’ pets. Even when bred in captivity, skunks are at risk of contracting rabies, just as a pet cat or dog would be. However, there is not currently an FDA approved rabies vaccine for use in skunks. So far this year, there have been as many as skunks positive for rabies as all other species combined. The Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association feels a very real concern for public health implications should skunks be allowed as pets.”