Reverse ferret: Mayor of New York set to repeal ban

Campaigners say minor health risks are far outweighed by the lifestyle benefits

It is a cause for which some cultured New Yorkers have fought ever since its prohibition, claiming that the minor health risks are far outweighed by the lifestyle benefits.

And now the city’s new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, looks poised to bow to their demands for legalisation. Yes, officials at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have called for the repeal of a 15-year-old ban on domesticated ferrets, saying that the animals are no more dangerous to the public than other pets.

The change in policy must be approved by the city’s Board of Health, which is expected to vote on the proposal in September. The lifting of the ban would likely be contingent on the furry, elongated creatures being spayed and vaccinated. According to a report in the The New York Times, ferret owners may also be required to ensure their animal’s anal glands are removed, since they could otherwise emit an unpleasant odour.

The newspaper published extracts from an internal memo passed between officials at the health department as they debated the merits of ending prohibition. “Evidence shows ferrets do not bite more frequently or severely than other pets the same size,” the memo said, though it added: “There may be injuries, especially to infants.”

Ferret ownership is allowed in 48 US states, including the rest of New York. However, the weasel’s friendlier cousin remains illegal in California, Hawaii and the District of Columbia. The California ban was introduced in 1987, motivated by fears that the sharp-toothed mammals might bite children and spread rabies. Yet research by the state’s own research bureau has found that dogs are more than 200 times more likely than ferrets to bite humans. A rabies vaccine for ferrets was developed in 1992.

Bill de Blasio has also promised to ban the traditional horse-drawn carriages that circle Central Park Bill de Blasio has also promised to ban the traditional horse-drawn carriages that circle Central Park (Getty Images)
New York City’s ferret ban came into force in 1999, during the reign of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and prohibits “all fur-bearing mammals of the family Mustelidae, including, but not limited to, weasel, marten, mink, badger, ermine, skunk, otter, pole cat, zorille, wolverine, stoat, and ferret”. Ferret fans protested the legislation, and in 2002 Mr Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg, had to defend it to the state’s supreme court.

A Change.org petition demanding legalisation has attracted almost 400 signatures, while a Facebook page, “Legalizing Ferret Ownership in NYC” has 100 “Likes”. The campaign for the ban’s repeal is being led by Ariel Jasper, a student from Brooklyn. “I looked into the Health Code and I saw that they were labelled as wild, dangerous animals, and that confused me because ferrets have been domesticated for over 2,000 years,” Ms Jasper told CNN. “They were actually domesticated before the cat.”

Several other obscure pet species would remain illegal in New York, even if ferret prohibition ends, including: pot-bellied pigs, hedgehogs, elephants, wolves, lions and iguanas. There is also a blanket ban on marsupials. Ms Jasper said she decided to act because Mr de Blasio, who took office in January, appeared to have the best interests of animals at heart. The mayor has also promised to ban the traditional horse-drawn carriages that trot around Central Park, saying that the horses’ treatment is “inhumane”. He has suggested the tourist favourites be replaced by electric buggies.

Talk of repeal has unearthed memories of Mayor Giuliani’s notorious 1999 exchange with a furious ferret rights activist, shortly after the ban was introduced. At the time, Mr Giuliani hosted a weekly radio call-in programme for New Yorkers, on which he fielded a call from David Guthartz, executive president of the organisation New York Ferret’s Rights Advocacy, who was profoundly upset by the legislation. “There’s something deranged about you,” Mr Giuliani told Mr Guthartz. “This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness… You need help.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests