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Adorable to look at, destructive to own: Why foxes don't make great pets

As kit season approaches, a local sanctuary cautions against buying captive-bred foxes.

MEDINA, Ohio — On Ready Pet GO! we are all about adoption because there's nothing better than opening your heart and home to an animal in need. 

But a local sanctuary asked for our help in sharing a cautionary tale very important for this time of year. 

It's about a type of exotic pet, legal to purchase here in Ohio, but increasingly being surrendered and turned over to rescues. 

Bill and Michelle are no strangers to rescues. Over the years they welcomed many wayward dogs, cats and other animals into their lives, either through fostering or adoption. 

But a request in June of 2021 has changed their lives in ways they could not have imagined. 

"The sucker light doesn't show. I mean it's like a glaring neon sign," Michelle said laughing and pointing to her forehead. She's always had a soft spot for animals in need.

That phone call was a plea for help. A baby fox, known as a "kit," had been sold at an Ohio auction but was never claimed. 

And it just so happened, Bill Vokac had always been fascinated with the creatures. 

They soon realized admiring foxes from afar and caring for one are two very different realities.

"Kit" -- as the fox was appropriately named -- escaped from the Vokac' s enclosure just six days after bringing her home. Thankfully, she was able to survive for three weeks in the wild before she was captured and returned to their care. 

Michelle and Bill dove into educating themselves about fox care: The food, the enrichment they needed, the veterinary care and safe, secure housing. 

"They are destructive animals. They will chew and destroy anything that's in their way," Bill said, ticking off the purses, shoes, wallets, clothing and even furniture they've destroyed. 

And that's not all:

"They are very stinky animals. They have a very unique scent. So when they mark something, they're trying to claim it. And when they like everything, it can become very, very stinky," he said. 

Soon, they began receiving calls about more foxes in need.

"Exotic pet ownership is really on the rise. And this tends to be one of the animals people think they are going to bring home and it will be like their cat or dog," Michelle said. 

Ohio is one of 15 states in the country that allows for legal, private ownership. Michelle says each of the 15 may cite different species of foxes, and different requirements in order to receive permitting.  

"Here in Ohio, you fill out a piece of paper and include a $25 check, and all of a sudden you have a permit and you can legally own a fox within your home," she said. 

But they would like to see much tighter restrictions, like the state laws in Pennsylvania.

"So in the state of Pennsylvania, if somebody can show that they have two years of well-documented exotic experience with foxes, then they can apply for a permit, which is a great stop gap to prevent those emotional purchases," Michelle said.

Today, they run Fox Tale Sanctuary, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a forever, loving home for captive-bred foxes. 

They do not adopt any of their foxes out. But they do welcome volunteers and those who would like to be educated about the breed to see what it's like. 

Currently 20 foxes call Fox Tale Sanctuary home. Caring for them is very expensive. Bill and Michelle say it's OK to love these animals and accept that in most situations they don't make great pets. 

"Without the proper education, it's gonna end up with us," Bill said. 

They caution about the upcoming kit season. Breeders will start taking deposits for babies born in just a few months.   

To learn more about Fox Tale Sanctuary, the foxes they care for, and how you can help, go HERE.

Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous pets story on Jan. 25, 2023.

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