Nurse has emotional support 'SKUNK' – and now walks it on a lead

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support skunk nurse anxiety depression wakefield paula bavill pongo

WALKING: Paula takes Pongo out on its lead (Pic: TOM MADDICK / SWNS)

Paula Bavill, from Wakefield, was afraid to be in large crowds due to her debilitating condition but now can regularly be seen out and about walking her skunk on a lead.

Skunks maybe more known for kicking up a smell and even dispersing crowds due to the strong scent they emit as a defence mechanism.

But for Paula, Pongo has become a valuable furry friend who she also carries in a pouch on her chest.

The skunk helps Paula as she is able to concentrate her attention on the animal and it is a distraction from her fears.

“Pongo has definitely changed my life for the better”

Paula

She said: “Pongo has definitely changed my life for the better.

“Before I would be too anxious to go out into places with too many people and too many loud noises, it was overwhelming.

“But when he’s there I’m able to cope much better. Nothing phases him at all, he’s very sociable and really chilled.

“I think a big part of it is that when Pongo is there all the attention is on him and not me.

“Also, being able to just stroke him takes my mind away from everything else that’s going on.”

Paula owns another skunk, five-year-old Wilfred.

She said: "Pongo has definitely changed my life for the better. "Before I would be too anxious to go out into places with too many people and too many loud noises, it was overwhelming. "But when he's there I'm able to cope much better. Nothing phases him

FRIENDLY: Pongo meets a dog (Pic: TOM MADDICK / SWNS)

While dogs are typically known as providing emotional support, there are a wide variety of other animals that have been used including pigs, turkeys and even kangaroos.

Unlike in the US, where support animals are regularly admitted to events and public places, there are not the same policies or guidelines in place in the UK.

Paula said she and Pongo were able to mingle when they went for a trip to the Bradford Industrial Museum with some staff even taking skunk selfies.

But it is not always the case and as well as getting a few odd looks, some venues have not allowed Pongo in.

She was denied entry to an event at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham.

support skunk nurse anxiety depression wakefield paula bavill pongo

SUPPORT: The skunk has helped Paula to go out more (Pic: TOM MADDICK / SWNS)

She reportedly said: “I asked if I could bring my ESA to enable me to attend HorrorCon last weekend.

“I appreciate this is at their discretion but sadly their response was a poor excuse.”

She continued: “Most disappointing was that at no point did they take the opportunity to offer to look into the issue and risk assess.”

A Magna spokesperson said: “Magna was contacted last week regarding bringing a pet skunk to an event as an emotional support animal for a customer with social anxiety.”

The statement added: “This was not discriminatory, it was a food hygiene and health and safety matter.”

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