OHIO: A US woman who shares her home with 50 skunks says they are “wonderful, beautiful animals”.

Deborah Cipriani, 55, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, runs America’s only rescue centre for domestic skunks.

And they are given free reign of the five-bedroom home - even sleeping on Ms Cipriani’s bed.

She said: “A lot of people think we’re weird to like pet skunks and they always say: ‘Why do you want a pet skunk?’ and I ask them: ‘Why do you want a pet dog?‘

“Because skunks aren’t the smelly little creatures that people think they are - they’re wonderful, beautiful animals.”

Ms Cipriani, who lives with partner Kevin, 51, bought her first skunk in 2000 to help her through the death of her mother.

Since then, she’s become so attached to the animals that she’s dedicated her life to caring for them - getting up at 4.30am every morning to make sure they’re all fed in time.

Her home, called Skunk Haven, has become well known throughout America and she even has fans in the UK, France and the Netherlands.

Ms Cipriani even set up her own event - called Skunk Fest - which attracts fellow animal lovers from all over America every September.–ON