© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and dvm360 | Veterinary News, Veterinarian Insights, Medicine, Pet Care. All rights reserved.
How I handle clients with "wild" pets
Squirrels are all the rage in my practice's hometown. Here's how I let clients know they're not appropriate housepets.
Our clinic has a permit to treat the injured wildlife brought to us by good Samaritans and wildlife rehabilitation organizations. But this isn't about legitimate wildlife handlers. For whatever reason, our town, Lewiston, Idaho, has a particular fascination with squirrels. Years ago, I'm sure with good intention, people started raising baby squirrels that had fallen out of trees. Those little furry things were hard to resist. So much, in fact, that over time a fascination turned into an obsession.
People wanted to know where to get those cute little squirrels. Everybody had to have one. Soon lots of homes had pet squirrels. The number was so high that our fish and game office asked our practice to help enforce the law about keeping squirrels. The rule: If you don't have a permit, you can't—or shouldn't—have the squirrel. But there's no "Squirrel Enforcement Squad" that's going to run out and take away people's squirrels in some covert operation. Truthfully, the fish and game office doesn't want to deal with it any more than we do.
So when people with squirrels call now, I first ask if they have a rehabilitation permit. If they say no, I explain why they aren't supposed to keep the squirrel. Most of these people are receptive and turn their "pet" squirrel over to us to treat and release. A few get offended. Thankfully, these calls only come a few times every couple of months. Most people are just bringing in injured wild animals they find.
Aside from squirrels, the real stinker is that I get a few calls from people wanting us to de-scent their pet skunk (also illegal). They seem shocked at my answer: Absolutely not. That's one I don't mince words on.
Rachael Hume is a receptionist at Southway Animal Clinic in Lewiston, Idaho.