Could Ferrets Be Legal In New York City By 2015?

A petition by a ferret enthusiast and a change of mayor could be two factors that lead to ferret ownership being legalized in New York City.

Have you ever had your life change overnight? Ferret enthusiasts in New York City are waking up to a new world today, as the news broke late yesterday that legalizing ferret ownership in the city will be considered late this summer. New York City is one of the few U.S. locations that outlaws ferret ownership (the states of California and Hawaii are other notable locations). The ban was initiated in New York City in 1999 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This new reality was made possible because of horses.

That’s right, the carriage horses of New York City, to be exact. During the 2013 mayoral race for New York City, candidate Bill de Blasio spoke out against the use of horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. Now that he is mayor, The New York Times reports that his stance on horses prompted Ariel Jasper of Brooklyn to petition the city to reconsider the ban on ferret ownership. She has a petition on Legalization efforts of the Ferret Club of NYC are updated on a Facebook page and Twitter account.

The New York Times also reports that it reviewed an internal memo from the New York City Department of Health And Mental Hygiene dated April 24, 2014. It states, “In January 2014, a ferret proponent petitioned the Board of Health to lift the prohibition. Department is required to respond.” The outlined time frame for response was May 11 to the petitioner, with the matter being put forward in the September Board of Health meeting. A final rule would likely be adopted in December 2014 and effective in January 2015.

What happens between now and the ruling will be critical, as people against the ban and those for it voice opinions. Although the public has no direct say in the matter, the Board will likely be monitoring public response.

Bill Gruber, longtime moderator of the Ferret Mailing List, which has had thousands of people discussing ferrets for more than 25 years, said that ferrets are already everywhere in New York City, and frequently in public. “For the most part nobody in NYC cares if you have ferrets,” he said. He added that he believes legalizing ferret ownership in New York City will have a few effects, and he listed the following five:
“1) Could help legalization efforts in other municipalities.
2) Ferrets would openly be sold in NYC pet stores.
3) Would help prevent ferrets being used as pawns, e.g., in “neighbor vs. neighbor” disputes.
4) NYC would have some assurance that a future administration with an agenda wouldn’t start enforcing the law.
5) Private breeders will be left out since reportedly there will be a de-scenting requirement (which extends the stereotype, sigh).”

But Gruber is hopeful for a future without a ferret ownership ban. “Overall I think it’s a good thing since ferrets are much maligned and a technical prohibition in NYC only helps to strengthen the misperceptions,” he said. “I do fear ferrets will become impulse items though. Maybe now is the time to lobby that any repeal include a licensing provision and not require de-scenting? Or will that derail the entire process and we should take what we can get?”

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And check out:
White House Petition Seeks Nudge For Illegal California Ferrets, click here>>
Helping Ferrets In Washington, D.C., click here>>

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