FRESNO, Calif. – Ferrets are making criminals out of their owners in California, where keeping the furry animals as pets is against the law.
The critters are legal as pets in 48 states, but not in the Golden State or Hawaii. Ferret fans want to overturn California's 80-year-old law.
“I could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine," said one woman who owns six ferrets and did not want her name used. "I am considered a criminal in the state of California.
“It doesn’t make sense to anyone that doesn’t own ferrets as to why it should be illegal,” the woman said.
Ferret advocates now are gearing up to challenge the law, seeking a state legislator who will sponsor a legalization bill by Feb. 27.
“With ferrets, there is no harm with them being present. There is no reason for them not to be legal, and there are plenty reasons for them to be legal in terms of the companionship they provide,” said Pat Wright, founder of legalizeferrets.org, which is behind efforts to change the law.
But the state says ferrets are a non-native species that can be detrimental to wildlife.
“There’s a great deal of risk with owning ferrets because they can escape and go into the environment and kill some of our more sensitive species,” said Tim Kroeker of the California Department of Fish and Game.
In 2010, ferret lovers had an environmental impact report conducted in order to help gain support in the Legislature. But they have been unsuccessful in finding someone to sponsor the bill.
“We have all the ammunition we need; we just don’t have the troops in field willing to make phone calls [to members in the assembly],” Wright said.