August 31, 2004
Honorable Governor Schwarzenegger
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,
SB 89, authored by Senator Dede Alpert, addresses a long standing issue in California, an issue which currently criminalizes tens of thousands of otherwise good citizens.
The grass roots effort to legalize ferrets in California began in the late 1980�s and watched in envy as several states legalized the ferret by legislative action with the support of their respective wildlife agencies: Pennsylvania, 1987, Vermont, 1989, Georgia, 1991, New Hampshire, 1993, Michigan,1994, Massachusetts, 1995. Ferrets are now legal in 48 states, every other state on the continent.
In California, the first bill to legalize ferrets was introduced in 1994. Unlike other wildlife agencies, the California Department of Fish and Game fought all attempts to remove the ferret from the list of prohibited wildlife, a list in which it clearly cannot belong by virtue of its status as domesticated. The Department continued to fight ferret legalization in spite of the results of their own 1997 Nationwide Ferret Survey, showing no documented feral ferrets anywhere in this country at any time including California.
Frustrated, ferret owners appealed to the Fish and Game Commission, which voted in 1995 to consider removing the ferret from the prohibited species list. The water buffalo and camel were removed a few years earlier from the same list without any environmental studies (according to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Robert Treanor, these animals were removed because they were determined to be domesticated). Yet the Commission was convinced by counsel that an EIR was necessary prior to removal of the ferret.
Opponents of SB 89 maintain that an EIR needs to be done prior to legalization and that ferret owners must fund such a study. Californians for Ferret Legalization disagrees that any study is necessary to remove the domesticated ferret from a wildlife list. Yet to move this issue forward, we support SB 89 because this bill gives ferret owners the same protection owners enjoy in the rest of the country, ensures that the animals are spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and funds a study of the environmental question. The issue moves forward after years of stasis.
In the absence of this bill, nothing is solved. Hundreds of thousands of ferrets are here already and their owners will never come forward, fund a study, and risk discovery without the kind of protection this bill provides them. Because the current law is unreasonable it is widely disobeyed. The Department of Fish and Game does not have the resources to ferret out owners, and sporadic enforcement only serves to frighten and anger ferret fans driving them and their pets underground.
An unbiased study will show that ferrets are safer to people and the environment than either the dog or cat. Californians for Ferret Legalization urges you to sign SB 89 so this question can be resolved.
Jeanne Carley, Co-Founder
Californians for Ferret Legalization
410 Mountain Home Road Woodside, CA 94062