Even Zombies Want Ferrets To Be Legalized In California

Well, at least people dressed as zombies do. And the organization LegalizeFerrets.org is in the hunt to get an initiative on the ballot asking voters to legalize ferret ownership.

ferret on lap
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio 
Although legal to own in 48 states, ferrets are illegal to have as pets in California.

What have zombies got to do with ferrets? Well, zombies tend to get attention, and that’s something ferret enthusiasts in California want (more on the zombie connection later). California is one of only two states (the other being Hawaii) that bans ferret ownership. A few cities (notably New York City) also ban the furry pets, but they are otherwise widely accepted across the United States.

Since the 1980s, different people and groups have worked to get ferret ownership legalized in California. LegalizeFerrets.org is spearheading the current effort. The group was founded in 2005. Since its beginnings, the organization, founded by Pat Wright, has tried almost every approach to getting ferret ownership legalized. It constantly raises funds to support these efforts, which include hiring legal representation, funding a preliminary environmental impact report, contacting California legislators, renting a billboard, commissioning a children’s book (“A Fair Deal For Ferrets”), petitioning the White House and more. 


Asking Voters About Ferret Legalization
The latest effort at ferret legalization is getting signatures on a petition to get an initiative on the 2016 ballot that will put the question of ferret legalization to voters. The Attorney General of California gave the initiative the following title and summary:

Legalizes the possession, importation, and transportation of pet ferrets. Requires all pet ferrets over six months old to be vaccinated against rabies annually, and all ferrets sold as pets in retail stores to be spayed or neutered before sale.

Authorizes counties to impose license fee up to $100 on purchasers of ferrets as pets, to pay costs of local animal control enforcement.

Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Likely additional local government costs of a few million dollars annually for animal control enforcement activities, which could be largely or entirely offset by the license fees authorized by the measure. 

Last week marked the start of efforts to gather voter signatures. Volunteers are organizing across the state, with contacts in more than 20 counties, but LegalizeFerrets.org is requesting more. The task ahead is large, as 365,880 signatures must be collected in 180 days to qualify to be on the ballot. 

However, if this number is not reached but at least 91,470 signatures are collected, then state legislators must act. According to the LegalizeFerrets.org website: “The State Assembly and State Senate are required to assign the proposed initiative measure to its appropriate committees and hold joint public hearings.”

White House Petition Seeks Nudge For Illegal California Ferrets


Ferret party starting. #caferrets #legalizeferrets

A photo posted by Joe Ferret (@joeferret) on


Why Are Ferrets Illegal In California?
Ferrets have been illegal to own in California since 1933 when a law randomly classified them as wild animals and put them under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to LegalizeFerrets.org. The main arguments against ferret ownership in California revolve around agricultural interests and public health and safety. The California Department of Fish And Wildlife has a ferret section on its website that details its view of ferrets.

The American Ferret Association, a national, nonprofit group in Maryland that formed in 1991, supports ferret legalization in general. Its mission includes promoting the domestic ferret as a companion animal, protecting the domestic ferret against anti-ferret legislation or any practice that harms ferret health or survivability, and providing information of interest to ferret enthusiasts.

The AFA position statement on ferret legalization says that legal bans on ferrets have all resulted from one or more of the following: misclassification of ferrets as wild, exotic or naturally being inclined to harm people or the ability of ferrets to create feral colonies. 

To these objections, the AFA website states:

• All ferrets sold at retail or adopted through shelters, and most ferrets sold through breeders, are neutered. 
• All ferrets sold or available to be adopted through shelters for the purpose of being household companion animals are specifically bred to be docile, friendly, and suitable for co-existence with human beings and cannot survive away from human caretaking for more than a brief time. 
• No evidence exists of any feral colony of ferrets ever being formed within the United States. 
• There has not been a single reported case in the United States of ferret-to-human rabies transmission since such recordkeeping began in 1951, and a USDA-approved rabies vaccine for ferrets has been available since 1992. 
• Like all mammals, ferrets are capable of biting but do so at a significantly lower rate than cats and dogs.

Grassroots Effort To Legalize Ferrets
So how do zombies figure into all of this? One of the volunteers who is collecting signatures will be doing so at the 15th Annual Sacramento Zombie Walk on August 29.  The Facebook page notes that: “We have a booth at the Sacramento Zombie Walk. Looking for petitioners to come help gather signatures. Event is expecting 2500 people and media coverage. Message me for questions and details. Zombie make up optional.”

That is just one of the petition signing locations. The current petition schedule has dates set up through January and more on the way.


I need help with petition tables this weekend. We are at the malls with full permission of the operators. In fact,…

Posted by LegalizeFerrets.org on Thursday, August 27, 2015

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