araminty, we’re coming from the same place. Literally.
First, in Florida the legal structure is “personal possession animals”, which does not carry the same positive connotations as the word “pet”. There are after all many animals one may possess that are a far cry from the cute cuddly-ness subconsciously associated with “pets”. At least “personal possession animals” is properly descriptive. I believe this is an important distinction to draw.
We professionals usually advise people against wildlife “pets” for reasons of practicality (Where are you going to keep it? What are you going to feed it? Do you know how hard they are to handle as adults? Etc., etc.) or safety (You realize this animal represents a danger to yourself, your family including your small children, visitors to your home including tradespeople unaware of its presence, and even possibly to your neighbors if it escapes?). We expect assurances that possessors will maintain the animal, for the remainder of its life, in a manner suitable to that species’ biological and psychological requirements and with some guarantee of safety for other people. Neither the great outdoors nor some undefined “rescue” or “sanctuary” should be expected to deal with your animal once you tire of it, or its care becomes too expensive for you.
That said, there remain people who are willing and able to make such a commitment, to school themselves in the needs of their pet and to properly provide for it. But even these scenarios may reach a bad end because of the realities of rabies.
Rabies is a particularly serious issue because vaccine producers do not test or label their product for the many species of mammals that may be kept as “pets”. There is thus no assurance that vaccination will be effective in your pet. In fact, many veterinarians refuse to dispense rabies vaccinations for species in which safety and efficacy are not proven (“extra-label usage”).
If your dog or cat bites someone, it will (in most jurisdictions) be quarantined and observed for development of rabies, whether or not it was vaccinated. Quarantines are though typically shorter and more flexible for animals who can prove current vaccination. This is not (again, in most jurisdictions) the case for other species. Florida’s Department of Public Health mandates that any mammalian carnivore (except dogs and cats) involved in a bite incident must be tested for rabies. Since this involves decapitation and microscopic examination of brain tissue, it obviously entails loss of your pet.
So you may keep your pet skunk or marten properly, and take reasonable precautions including shutting it in another room when company arrives. But if during a moment’s inattention the visitor’s six year old child opens that door, sticks his finger into the cage, and gets a “play bite” – well, you’ve lost your beloved pet. This is just one of many scenarios that people do not think to consider when they seek a wildlife pet.