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Fur Still Flying Over City Ferrets

jailed ferret
New York City Ferret

Question: What do gorillas, coyotes and ferrets have in common?
Answer: You can't keep them as pets in New York City.

It's true. On June 29, 1999, the New York City Department of Health added ferrets to a lengthy list of animals that are illegal to keep as pets within New York City, citing a number of safety and environmental reasons. And while the DoH isn't going door-to-door looking for contraband ferrets, city law and health enforcement officials are empowered to confiscate them on sight. It is thought that the ban occurred in large part due to the testimony of a New Hampshire veterinarian who testified that ferrets can become feral, territorial creatures if let loose in city parks and may attack infants if left unattended. Ferret advocates vehemently opposed his testimony and both the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society have testified in opposition to the ban.

Judging by the number of ferret foods, treats, clothes and toys lining city pet store shelves, many residents have defiantly decided to keep their contraband companions. According to New York City Ferrets.Com, a group that has been lobbying hard to lift the ban, plans are underway to bring a ferret legalization bill before the New York City Council sometime early next year. "Even so, that will just be the beginning of the process," says NYCFerret.Com's Melissa Drake. "Changing laws takes time. Our last bill (sponsored by former New York City Councilmember Kathryn Freed in June 2001) took over two years to come to vote."

Drake encourages ferret owners and advocates to roll with the ebb and flow of activity of legalization efforts. They'll be extended periods of quiet and then bursts of work requiring volunteers to write letters, get petitioned signed, and many other things, she says. Right now the group is in the process of sorting through and updating "hundreds of pages of material from past legalization efforts" from New York as well as other states. Once finished the information packet is expected to have a five or ten page summary and about 300 pages of supporting documentation. It will be available on the web.

To keep updated on the ferret ban and legalization efforts, sign up with NYCFerrets.Com at and click on the "Join Our Email List Link." Or, send a long self-addressed stamped envelope and a book of stamps to: NYCFerrets.Com Mailing List, Cathederal Station, PO Box 952, New York, NY 10025-0952.

Click here for more articles about the legal rights of pet owners in New York.


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Most recent update: 1/26/03
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