Californians for Ferret Legalization

Why the Legislature Addressed The Ferret Issue

Prior to 1985, ferrets were legal in 40 states. In fact, in most of these states, they never were illegal. Since 1985, eight states have legalized ferrets bringing the total to 48. In six of these states, legalization was accomplished through legislative action (page 5 1996-97 Nationwide Ferret Survey of State Wildlife Agencies). In one state, a court decision affirmed the ferret's status as domesticated and therefore outside the mandate of the state wildlife agency, and in the other, ferrets were legalized by a pro-active state wildlife agency.

During this entire time, from the late 1980's to the present, the California Department of Fish and Game not only remained resolute in its hard line opposition to ferret legalization, but has been an active promulgator of ferret misinformation. So in 1994, when AB 2497 (California's first ferret bill) was introduced, it faced a wide array of opposition from farm, waterfowl and environmental organizations and failed to pass the Assembly floor. None of the bills in any of the other states generated such controversy. In fact, few had opposition of any kind. Significantly, none of these bills were opposed by their respective wildlife agencies.

In November of 1995, ferret proponents asked the California Fish and Game Commission to remove the domesticated ferret from the restrictive wildlife list. Based on the information provided by proponents, the Fish and Game Commission voted to go to public notice and consider the request. The Department of Fish and Game then advised the Commission that an environmental study would need to be completed prior to a Commission regulatory action and suggested that ferret legalization advocates be required to pay for the study. The Commission president instead directed the department to conduct the study. The resulting study consists of two documents: the 1996-97 Nationwide Ferret Survey of State Wildlife Agencies and a ferret bibliography compiled by Whisson and Moore,1997.

In the meantime, the Fish and Game Commission's legal counsel informed the Commission that it "did not have the authority to adopt regulations to remove restrictions on ferrets, so legalization of ferretswas a legislative matter" (Page 2 1996-97 Nationwide Ferret Survey of State Wildlife Agencies). This opinion was eventually ruled incorrect by Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell and incredibly the Commission was advised by counsel to appeal this decision - the equivalent of winning an election then demanding a recount. The appeal was unsuccessful.

On April 6, 2000, armed with the legal authority to address the ferret issue (however against their wishes), a new Fish and Game Commission contradicted the earlier Commission by requiring ferret legalization proponents to hire an environmental consultant to do a new study at an estimated minimum cost of $100,000 prior to even considering a vote to go to public notice. With nothing to gain from this avenue, ferret legalization supporters continued their efforts in the legislature and SB 89 was authored in 2003 by Senator Dede Alpert.

SB 89, by grandfthering the hundreds of thousands of ferrets already here in California (with provisions that they be spayed/neutered and vaccinated), and establishing an owner-funded ferret study, acknowledges the reality that ferrets are here in large numbers while addressing the arguments of the opposition. SB 89 passed all committee and floor votes by overwhelming majorities. California's Legislature, like California's citizens, would like to see this issue move forward.

Jeanne Carley, Co-Founder
Californians for Ferret Legalization
410 Mountain Home Road Woodside, CA 94062
(650) 851-3750

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