Ferrets Should be Legal in California

In California, ferrets are illegal. Despite volumes of convincing evidence that ferrets are not the menace that California suggests, lawmakers still have not budged from their position based on erroneous facts and figures. Are ferrets really the menace they are claimed to be?

Myth: Predators of Endangered Seabirds

Boyd Gibbons, Director of California Department of Fish and Game, in a letter written on March 25, 1994, claimed that “the state of Massachusetts has adopted a law (with) restrictions against ferrets because… wild ferrets deciminated [sic] a population of endangered Terns.”

Photo © 2005 Jenny Preece

Conversely, Thomas M. French, Assistant Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in a letter dated February 20, 1991, stated that “there has never been a recorded case of Tern predation by a ferret in Massachusetts… in fact, I have never heard of such a case anywhere in North America.”

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 1

Myth: Predators of Waterfowl

Jack C. Parnell, Director of California Department of Fish and Game, in a memo from February 26, 1986, purported that “ferrets prey upon… waterfowl.”

However, The United States Department of the Interior stated on February 19, 1997, that “in the 30-year history of research conducted by Northern Prairie Science Center on nesting waterfowl, domestic ferrets have never been identified or considered as a predator of duck nests.” Furthermore, the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, said in a letter dated February 11, 1997, “(we have) never heard of any problem with domestic ferrets destroying waterfowl eggs and… we have never encountered any domestic ferrets in the fields.”

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 2

Myth: Predators of Indigenous Wildlife

Boyd Gibbons, in a letter and Ferret Fact Sheet dated March 25, 1994, claimed that “ferrets can and will survive in the wild in California.” And, in the same letter, he also says that “stray, nonbreeding ferrets could have serious impacts on local wildlife populatons.”

Yet, the United States Public Health Service says that “domestic ferrets… can survive only in captivity”, the Centers for Disease Control asserts that “stray ferrets do not appear capable… of establishing themselves in the wild”, and the State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection argues that “lost ferrets are rarely found and usually die soon after escape.”

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 3

Myth: As Ferocious as Pit Bulls

The California Department of Health Services hypothesizes that “ferrets,… like pit bulls have been bred to be especially ferocious.”

Not according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Public Health Service who testify that ferrets are “easily handled and non-dangerous” and “docile and cat-like”. Doesn’t sound too ferocious to me!

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 4

Myth: Extincted 20 Bird Species

And who knows how the California Department of Health Services supports its 1988 claim that “ferrets… have contributed to the extinction of 20 species of New Zealand birds and have pushed many to the brink of extinction.”

Carolyn King, Scientific Editor of The Royal Society of New Zealand, states that “mustelids (ferrets, stoats, weasels and polecats) cannot be proved to be directly responsible for any of the shockingly long list of island populations of birds that we know to have become extinct since the human colonization of New Zealand.” She adds further, “There is not a single known extinction or diminution in New Zealand that can be regarded as definitely and solely due to (ferrets and other) mustelids… Overseas the story is the same: only 1 percent of 163 extinctions recorded from islands all over the world since 1600 have been attributed to mustelids compared with 26% attributed to cats and 54% attributed to rats.”

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 5

Myth: Carriers of Rabies

Once again, the California Department of Health Services makes another astounding claim: “Being fearless, savage and tenacious… should make (ferrets) exceptionally effective transmitters of rabies.”

Yet the Centers for Disease Control Annual Summaries of Rabies Surveillance (1984-1990) clearly indicate findings of 2,310 rabid cats, 2,240 rabid dogs, and only 10 rabid ferrets.

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 6

Myth: Nonvaccinatable for Rabies

Boyd Gibbons (him again!) erroneously claimed in the same apocryphal letter from 1994 that there is no proven vaccine to prevent rabies in ferrets.

Donald G. Hildebrand, President of Rhone Merieux, in a letter penned less than two weeks later, stated that “Rhone Merieux is the manufacturer of IMRAB, a killed rabies vaccine which has been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for use in six species of animals, including ferrets…”

Score: California – 0, Ferrets – 7


Ding, ding! Technical knock-out! None of the arguments supporting the premise of keeping ferrets illegal in California are valid.

16 Responses to “Ferrets Should be Legal in California”

  1. Carrie Dyer

    I think this site is great. Having owned 6 ferrets, 3 of which I have now, I know that they make great pets. I also have a toddler and he simply loves them. My female is the only one who has ever tried to defend herself from my son and that was shortly after I was given her and her brother. They had been kept in a cage and rarely handeled for over a year. They quickly adapted and are an invaluable part of our family. This Vermont family supports your cause.

  2. Heather

    Ferrets are NOT a menace. I own a male and female. They can be tricky and stubborn and hide in all sorts of lovely places, and steal my chips when I’m eating… or bury their noses in my ice cream… and they might poop in the corner if you’re not watching them… they are no different then any cat. I love these little beings. From another Vermont lady.

  3. Tara

    Yeaaaaah, ferrets are awesome! I have a choclate [sic] standard female named cheesenip. I’m bored so I just thought I would inform all of you of that interesting fact.

  4. Takeshia

    I agree. I have 2 ferrets and they are great pets. I live in California. Despite what the law says, I have them and I am happy with them. The vets in California work on them, and the biggest pet stores sell ferret products. If a person can have a rat as a pet i should be able to have a ferret legally. LEGALIZE FERRETS!!!!!!!

  5. Emily

    Yeah! Ferrets need to be legal! I would love to have one of these bundles of fur, but I can’t. Oh well. We might move to Vancouver soon.

  6. Lucia

    Ferrets make GREAT pets. I do not know where CA got such info. I have 1 year old cousin who holded my ferrets they did not attack her at all! She love them.

  7. Tamara

    I am writing a paper for class tomorrow. It is an argument paper and I chose the topic “Ferrets in CA: They shold be legalised!” I was using the google search engine for research and came across this page. I absolutely ADORE it!!! I have a small rescue in CA to help people who can no longer handle the stress of having an illegal pet or who can’t afford proper care and time for their fuzzies. I am going to try and get my paper published in the local newspaper. Wish me luck!


  8. Rod

    Yeah for ferrets!! My wife & I inherited 2 from our children when they graduated from college.(moved to Calif.) We both think they are a great joy, and very entertaining —- especially playing with our cat. Ferrets used to be illegal in N.H., our home, but thank God they were FINALLY legalized here. Love them dearly!!!! (Get off the pot [quit smoking it anyway] California, and legalize ferrets!) Rod

  9. Heidi

    I just recently adopted a ferret who was found in someones back yard…she was a victim of mistreatment, and is slowly recovering…but she is so wonderfull! She hasn’t been able to move around much due to a nonfunctional left leg, but she does the best she can but cannot make left turns very well. I live in California as well, and I have no problem find a vet for her or anything else. So my question is: if you can’t own a ferret, how come you can buy everything to do with a ferret at the pet store?

    My excuse if they catch me: Well I figured since you can buy everything to do with a ferret at your local pet store, I figured they were promoting Ferrets.
    Oh yea, and one more thing, she’s extremely interested in pot, and the smell of it and the smoke…darn thing! Can’t keep her outta it.

  10. Heidi

    Hey all, just an update on Lucy…She’s doing great now, she can walk better, she loves to eat, and always wants out of her cage.

    However I have a question to all of you. I was wondering what I can do to keep her from pulling her towel down from her hammock and sleeping in her litter with it. She goes to the bathroom all over it and within one day its a complete mess! Any suggestions? I figured I could just safety pin it down, but I was hoping for a training solution… Please help or reply to krabit17@hotmail.com


  11. Courtney

    Ferrets definetly should be legal i’m 15 and have wanted one for years! My friends in AZ have them and i love them they are great i see no reason for ferrets to be illegal. Does anyone know where there is a place to buy Ferrets in Califorina ? if you do PLEASE email me back!


  12. chelsea

    I have two ferrets and I have looked on every website I could to get more info on them being illegal. Which I personally think is wrong. I’ve written three letters to the governor asking him to make them legal and he hasn’t responded yet. I was wondering what is it that makes people think they should stay illegal?

  13. Sean

    Student Sarah Sevick filed a formal complaint in September with the U.S. Department of Justice, accusing Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by not letting her keep her “assistance animal,” which is Lilly, her ferret. Sevick says that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, including panic attacks, and that Lilly “soothes” her, but the school said it was concerned with other students’ safety. (In other ferret news, the British upscale clothing firm Burberry threatened to sue a pet-accessories shop in Dudley, England, in October, for selling outfits in the familiar Burberry “check” pattern, including a cap and cape designed for ferrets.)
    [KSAT-TV (San Antonio), 9-20-05] [Daily Telegraph (London), 10-12-05]

  14. Gregory

    Let her have her fuzzie friend you mindless Gits, if the ferret helps her then its all good. This cute little harmless thing what in the name of god are you afraid of?

  15. Gregory

    Well said Rod I have two you know if you think about it all this stink about the “evil”, cute furry, little ferrets kind of bugs me; I mean these folks have all these books right? well maybe they should read one and learn something about them.


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