A longstanding ban against ferrets was upheld today by the city’s Board of Health, much to the dismay of a vocal group of advocates, and despite the expectation that a more animal-friendly mayor might help overturn the ban. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
The issue of ferret ownership may have reached peak public awareness under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who famously went on a rant against a ferret owner during his weekly radio show.
Giuliani: There’s something deranged about you.
Caller: No there isn’t, sir.
Giuliani: The excessive concern that you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist.
The city banned them in 1999, but over the past year ferret advocates had quietly been making progress in reversing the ban. Ariel Jasper’s petition led to a formal rule change coming before the city’s Board of Health Tuesday.
“It just doesn’t seem to make sense when we have dogs that are several hundred pounds in our city that can really harm multiple people if they really wanted to, why discriminate against a two-pound animal?” said advocate Ariel Jasper.
“There are absolutely case reports of very serious, disfiguring injuries and worse to young, unattended children,” said Dept. of Health Deputy Commissioner Daniel Kass.
Indeed, while pet ferrets are legal in 48 states – including everywhere else here in New York State – many board members remained wary of the risk.
“The concern that’s being voiced here is what happens when you legalize ferrets in a setting like New York City with such density of population and housing stock?” said board member Deepthiman Gowda.
“I would be concerned that we would be at risk for more aggressive ferrets, more attacks, odor, maybe even a feral population,” said board member Joel Forman.
Ultimately, only three board members voted to legalize, well short of the six votes needed. De Blasio, despite his well-documented opposition to carriage horses, appeared not to have lobbied on this particular animal issue.
“I thought that was a decision for the Board of Health to make, and if that’s their judgment, I’m comfortable with their judgment,” said de Blasio.
So for ferret advocates, it’s back to square one. And while they theoretically could lobby the City Council to pass a bill overturning the ferret ban, there is no sign at the moment that’s a legislative priority.