AUGUSTA – Some Maine sixth-graders are pushing state lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it easier for residents to keep hedgehogs as pets.

Maine and eight other states currently restrict or ban the tiny, quill-covered creatures, which can carry salmonella.

The students asked a legislative committee on Tuesday if the state could ease restrictions on owning the animals, which now require two different permits. Lions and tigers need the same kinds of permits, while certain other wildlife, such as chinchillas and buttonquail, do not.

Online hedgehog groups often complain about the state’s “lengthy” process for owning a hedgehog.

“Anyone should be able to have a hedgehog in Maine,” one student told lawmakers.

Maine had already been looking into the matter. A state wildlife official who spoke after the students left the committee meeting Tuesday said hedgehogs could soon be treated more like hamsters.

But Katie Hansberry, state director for The Humane Society of the United States, put a quill in the students’ dreams of hedgehogs as the perfect prickly pet.

“Hedgehogs don’t always fair that well as pets,” she said.

Owners may disrupt their natural nocturnal sleeping patterns and the animals risk acquiring a debilitating disease known as wobbly hedgehog syndrome, she said.

Some legislators said they wanted to kill the legislation and leave it up to regulators. But Republican Sen. Eric Brakey, the bill’s sponsor, warned how it would look to the sixth-graders. The lawmakers agreed to consider the issue Thursday.

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