The ferret debate

Giuliani banned the ferret, but hundreds of local owners openly defy the law. Read the arguments for and against and decide who's right.



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"Ferrets are known for their unpredictable behavior, and they are prone to vicious, unprovoked attacks on humans. Ferret attacks reported nationwide over time have become notorious for their severity and capriciousness, causing serious injuries to some infants and young children in particular. In New York City's multiple dwelling residences, which are not natural habitats of ferrets, a ferret could crawl through holes in walls or travel along risers or ducts to other apartments, with potentially tragic consequences for the neighbor of a ferret owner.

"Given careful consideration of what is known now, it would be irresponsible from a public safety perspective to allow a ferret to be kept as a pet in New York City."
—Press release issued by New York City Department of Health, June 29, 1999

  "This is like the Salem witchcraft trial. For years and years, the ferret was not a commonly encountered animal. There is a lot of ignorance, and some people aren't interested in having their ignorance dispelled. The New York City Council had voted to legalize ferrets. Mr. Giuliani vetoed the bill; he decided that his Board of Health, elected by nobody, must have a right to make its edict as it sees fit. That Board is populated by nobody who knows anything about ferrets. They ruled ferrets to be wild animals, but their definition of "wild" is crazy. They say ferrets are inherently dangerous to human beings. Well, there are millions of human beings who are inherently dangerous to human beings. Let's ban them. Nobody with significant experience with ferrets would agree with the Board of Health's 1999 statement. Mr. Giuliani is not well liked in ferret circles."
—David Gaines, Legal and Legislative Committee member, American Ferret Association

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