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California Fish and Game Commission Meeting THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2010. Prepared by:. Picking up where we left off…. The Commission’s 2005 Policy Statement on Introduction of Non-Native Species, states: “Proposals to introduce exotic species shall be submitted

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California Fish and Game Commission Meeting THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2010

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California Fish and Game Commission Meeting


Prepared by:

picking up where we left off
Picking up where we left off…

The Commission’s 2005 Policy Statement on Introduction of Non-Native Species, states:

“Proposals to introduce exotic species shall be submitted

to the Commission for approval. The Department will review

and evaluate proposals to insure that the potential effects of

such introductions will not have unacceptable negative

impacts on native species, agriculture interests, and public

health and safety.”

Today we officially submit our proposal to introduce

The domesticated ferret as a legal pet in California.

environmental review process
Environmental Review Process

What is needed:

  • Allowing pet ferrets in California requires the Commission to approve changes to its regulations in Section 671 of the Fish & Game Code.
  • The Commission has made many such changes in the past without conducting an EIR, such as allowing live Barramundi game fish into the state, as well as importationof raptors for nuisance bird control.
  • The Commission’s wildlife protection activities are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, and it has its own approved Environmental Document Process.
  • The Proponent would welcome the same process used to assess the risks of importing live Barramundi.
the report
The Report

The Proponent commissioned a detailed, comprehensive study of the issues surrounding legalization of ferret ownership in California, prepared by G. O. Graening, Ph.D., MSE

Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Sacramento.

appropriate environmental review
Appropriate Environmental Review

Key Findings of Dr. Graening’s Report:

  • California and New York City are the last places in North America to ban the pet ferret.
  • Domesticated ferrets simply cannot survive in the wild more than a few days.
  • No feral ferret colony has been found in the U.S.
  • A dog is 200 times more likely to inflict injury on humans than a domesticated ferret.
  • No transfer of Rabies from ferrets to humans has ever been confirmed.
environmental review
Environmental Review

Given the low level of potential for significant impact, a lower level of environmental review is appropriate.

  • DFG’s Environmental Document process is highly appropriate, as has been the case in past exotic species-related regulation changes.
  • At most, the Commission should first conduct an initial study to verify Dr. Graening’s report, likely leading to a Mitigated Negative Declaration, or at least a fully informed decision to prepare an EIR.
isn t it time
Isn’t it time?

In 1933, ferrets were banned in California by the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Food and Agriculture, presumably as wild animals.

Legalization efforts have been under way since 1986.

why prohibit a domestic pet
Why Prohibit a Domestic Pet?

Since 1933, ferrets have been classified as detrimental mammals because they have not been determined by the Fish and Game Commission to be normally domesticated in California.Because of this, they are seen as posing a threat to native wildlife and agriculture, as well as to public health and safety. Existing law prohibits importation and possession of ferrets in California.

Numerous studies have shown that dogs and cats can damage wildlife and agriculture, and at times have posed threats to public health and safety, yet they are not regulated by the Fish and Game Commission.

what is a domestic ferret
What is a Domestic Ferret?

The ferret is a domesticated mammal of the type Mustela putorius furo. Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators with males being substantially larger than females. They typically have brown, black, white, or mixed fur, have an average length of 20 inches (51 cm) including a 5-inch (13 cm) tail, weigh about 1.5 to 4 pounds (0.7 to 2 kg), and have a natural lifespan of 7 to 10 years.

Several other small, elongated carnivorous mammals belonging to the family Mustelidae (weasels) also have the word ferret in their common names, including an endangered species, the Black-Footed Ferret.

The history of the ferret's domestication is uncertain, like that of most other domestic animals, but it is likely that ferrets have been domesticated for at least 2,500 years. They are still used for hunting rabbits in someparts of the world, but increasingly they are being kept simply as pets.

Source: Fox J G: Taxonomy, history and use. In Fox JG, ed Biology and Diseases of the Ferret, 2nd ed.

Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins 1998, pp 3-18

definitions aside
Definitions aside …

Ferrets are part of the family.

why do we want them legal
Why do we want them legal?
  • We love our ferrets – they are part of our families.
  • We are tired of living in fear of losing our pets.
  • The current law is based on antiquated information about ferrets and needs to be updated with today’s fact-based language.
ferrets got a bum rap from california
Ferrets Got a Bum Rap from California

Publications such as the one pictured, have contributed to keeping domesticated ferret ownership illegal in California.

Pet European Ferrets, A Hazard to Public Health, Small Livestock and Wildlife, 1988 by the California Department of Health Services

how others view ferrets
How Others View Ferrets
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines ferrets as domestic.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also recognizes ferrets as domestic pets, as does the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). HSUS issued the following policy statement regarding ferrets as companion animals in 1996:

“The HSUS recognizes that domestic ferrets have become increasingly popular as pets in recent years and can be kept legally as pets in nearly every state.”

what are the issues
What are the Issues?
  • Wildlife
  • Agriculture
  • Human Health & Safety

Over the last 14 years, in every survey done in all 50 states before they legalized ferrets, no evidence of feral ferrets was found anywhere at any time.

"Discussions (by telephone) with personnel in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina and Wyoming elicited no evidence of feral colonies of ferrets or of any significant survival of the animals in the wild, nor of reported impact on native wildlife caused by escaped domestic ferrets.This is consistent with the reports from various state wildlife agencies included in the California Domestic Ferret Association compilation.”

Ferrets: a Selective Overview of Issues and Options

Prepared By Kenneth W. Umbach, Ph.D.

  • The literature documents that ferrets may have impacted European poultry production, especially in the late 19th and early 20th century. The literature is largely devoid of any instances of ferrets impacting agricultural resources in the United States.
  • For the most part, the United States has phased out household poultry and egg production and now relies almost exclusively on commercial facilities (confined animal feeding operations). These facilities may be better protected from predators than traditional domestic henhouses and coops.
  • Questionnaires of agricultural departments in the United States have not revealed any major opposition to ferrets; where agricultural agency personnel have responded negatively to ferret legalization, their concerns focused on the risk of ferrets biting humans or on the risk of ferrets establishing feral breeding populations, and not on the impact to agricultural resources. This issue may not need to be analyzed further in the EIR.
human health and safety
Human Health and Safety

The frequency of ferret bites has not

been demonstrated to be greater than

the rates for dogs or cats, whose bite

frequencies are considered to be

acceptable risks that are outweighed by

the benefits of their companionship.

human health and safety21
Human Health and Safety

The CSUS questionnaire of health departments in the United States has not revealed any major opposition to ferret ownership; where agency personnel did comment, their concern focused on infants left unsupervised with ferrets.

Provided that effective mitigation measures are incorporated into a legalization action, this potential impact upon human health could be reduced to a less-than-significant level. This issue may not need to be analyzed further in the EIR.

reasons to legalize
Reasons to Legalize
  • Ferrets are already here!
  • PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory

Council) claims 27 percent of the

nation’s ferret supplies are sold in


  • This brings about $5,000,000 annually

to the state of California.

  • No feral populations, or harm to agriculture, the environment or public health, have been reported.
bring it into the open
Bring it into the open

People are reluctant to seek veterinary care including vaccinations for their ferrets, for fear of being reported and losing their pets.

bad laws undermine government authority
Bad Laws Undermine Government Authority

There have been no citations issued for ferrets in California this year.

“The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”

— AbrahamLincoln

legalize ferrets
Legalize Ferrets
  • This issue has been going on since 1986.
  • Since then, all other states except Hawaii have legalized ferret ownership without any negative effects.
  • has the environmental documents requested by the state.
  • We ask that you proceed with the next step toward ferret legalization.