Skunk lovers might be flocking to Tennessee sooner rather than later.
On Feb. 17, the Tennessee State Senate voted on a bill to decriminalize owning skunks as pets. PBS reports that 17 states already allow people to keep pet skunks. Those states are: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The 27-3 vote on Senate Bill 1821 could make Tennessee number 18. The state House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill, but has endorsed it.
Tennessee already allows its residents to keep other wild animals, such as foxes and porcupines. According to Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, the addition of skunks to that list could be a game changer. It could even attract buyers from out of state.
"When you think that a skunk can sell for $1000, I mean, this is a big deal," Faison told Nashville's WSMV.
Domesticated skunks have been bred in captivity for decades. Those in favor of Tennessee's proposed legislation contend that skunks make wonderful pets, provided they're spayed or neutered, and have their scent glands removed. However, pet skunks require specialized care, and many states in which it is legal to own them require owners to obtain a permit and adhere to specific regulations.
Although Senate Bill 1821 has many lawmakers' support, that support is not unanimous. Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, for instance, doesn't share his colleagues' enthusiasm for skunks as companion animals. Niceley had a pet skunk as a child. He told Nashville Public Radio, "I really don't recommend them."
Whether the legislation passes remains to be seen. In the meantime, Tennessee's skunk enthusiasts have something to hope for. Who knows? Pepé Le Pew could very well be joining Fido and Fluffy on family road trips in no time.