While not for everyone, millions of people adore ferrets and own them as pets. These animals are curious, smart, comical, and loving, which is what makes them a great alternative for people who cannot get out to walk a dog or who deals with a cat allergy. However, for the people in New York City, the ban on owning a ferret as a pet will not change, at least for now.
The New York City Board of Health announced its decision this morning, saying the ban will remain in force based on concerns of potential risk of ferrets crawling through apartment walls and escaping, as well as biting risks.
As stated by Dr. Lynn Richardson, she is not convinced that there would be no substantial health risks for people who own ferrets in the city. On the other hand, many people feel the treatment toward ferrets is unfair since many legal animals could cause the same damage. Therefore, singling out ferrets just seems wrong.
While ferrets are legal in the state of New York, the problem is New York City. For many years, ferret ownership in the city has been banned, with these animals being considered as wild but then in 1999, the ban became very specific.
The vote to lift the ban came down to a 3-2 vote but in order for it to be removed, six votes were required. Unfortunately, four board members did not vote nor provide a reason for their being absent.
Ferrets, which are closely related to weasels, were domesticated roughly 2,000 years ago. Within the past 20 years, popularity in owning a ferret has continually climbed. In fact, there are many high-profile people who are responsible ferret owners to include Paris Hilton. In 2012, it was estimated by the American Veterinary Medicine Association that approximately 334,000 homes had ferrets as a pet, a very small number compared to the number of dog and cat owners.
In the past 25 years, other states have lifted the ban on owning ferrets to include Washington DC, California, and Hawaii. In light of the Board of Health’s decision in New York City, many ferret lovers believe they were acting on unrealistic fears. Even staff members of the Health Department had to admit that after talking to colleagues in other states, it was obvious that no major problems had ever been reported specific to ferrets.
Although discouraging for people who love ferrets and would love to own one, members of different advocacy groups are determined that will try again to get the ban on ownership lifted. If the ban had been lifted, owners would need to be sterilized, vaccinated, and kept restrained outdoors, much like dogs and cats.
From 2008 to 2014, only four ferret bites were reported in New York City, which supports what many ferrets owners have been saying for a long time, there is no risk, or at least no risk that as any greater than owning a dog or cat.