An estimated tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in California are believed to be harboring “thieves” in their household. These particular thieves have distinctive physical features that include long, slender bodies, weigh under 5 lbs., and are often born with a dark burglar’s mask. I am of course referring to ferrets, whose name literally translates to “tiny thief.”
They are legal everywhere in the United States except California and Hawaii. For California their legality is connected to their misclassification as a “wild” animal despite being domesticated from polecats 2,500 years ago, and the fact that nowhere in the continental U.S. have any escaped ferrets been successful in establishing a feral colony - including California where they’ve been living under the radar for decades.
This is due to how this animal’s domestication has led them to be both intolerant of extreme temperatures and their incredibly curious nature that draws them straight to danger. Plus, it’s standard practice that they are fixed and descented before heading to the pet store.
So why are they so popular and why do groups such as LegalizeFerrets.org push so hard to change the legislation against them? Afterall, we still have a pick of companion animals like dogs, cats, and birds to name a few. It’s because, just like the animals listed here, they have their own unique personality and endearing traits you’re not likely to find in any other animal.
I am one who grew up with an assortment of animals as my mom, while working for an animal clinic, would bring home many kinds for rehabilitation when the facility needed room for new animal patients. Not many kids could say they were late to school because their guest owl escaped its cage and thought the armchair was the perfect place to nap that morning. Having my fair share of experiences with many types of animals there is just something incredibly novel about ferrets.
We’re talking about a big sized personality in a tiny - and incredibly adorable - package. They can be trained to fetch, roll over, walk on a leash, come when called, and use a litter box . Ferrets have even been employed to run cables for electrical and aviation companies or used as hunters of rabbits and other animals that wreak havoc for farmers. Unique only begins to describe them.
Ferrets are clever, mischievous, loving, and joyful. They will steal your socks, kid’s toys, or anything else they can get their paws on and drag them away to what is known as a “stash pile”. At my sister’s in Las Vegas I have witnessed many a stuffed animal hopping across the house as its escort runs it toward a closet to snuggle with. Or have been surprised to open a drawer only to find a small business of them - ‘business’ being the actual name for a group of them - napping under a pile of clean rags.
And when they’re excited and want you to play with them they will jump around you, rolling all over themselves in what is known as a weasel war dance. They’re incredibly social and bond closely to their people and other pet companions.
Any arguments that have been presented as to keep the current unjust laws in place have long been discredited. Even the cost of the CEQA study the Department of Fish and Wildlife would need conducted before changing the restriction has been offered to be covered by ferret advocacy groups. Yet time after time the efforts to legalize ferrets are rejected mostly out of ignorance or blind assumptions.
Now, I realize this fight for ferret legalization pales in comparison to some of the very big issues we’re facing here in California, but the principle of the matter is important where too many aspects of our life are being overly controlled. And if there is anything Libertarians stand for it’s principle...and decreasing government control.
To help undo outdated ferret laws reach out to your state legislators and get some extra push by requesting supportive letters from your local elected officials. Let’s turn these fun, charismatic, four-legged refugees into welcomed citizens of the state of California.