If you're considering a pet ferret, first confirm that your state and municipality allow these animals to be kept in the home. Ferrets are legal in most states, but some do not allow them. Also, local laws are stricter than state laws in some places, and regulations change periodically. So get specific and up-to-date information from your local government or animal control board.
In California, ferrets are illegal to sell, import, transport or keep as house pets unless you have a permit from the California Department of Fish and Game. Permits aren't issued for home possession. They are issued only under special circumstances, such as for medical research or to take confiscated or rescued ferrets out of the state. The statewide ban is based on fears that escaped and discarded ferrets could establish unnatural wild populations that would compete with native wildlife and disrupt the ecosystem.
Hawaii is the only other state that bans ferret ownership outright. The state does not allow these pets because they easily could revert to a feral state and are potential carriers of rabies. Hawaii is the only state that's officially free of this deadly disease. If you're caught housing a ferret in Hawaii, you face penalties of up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $200,000. In-state owners can voluntarily turn their ferrets over to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture without prosecution or any other consequences.
Ferrets are technically illegal to keep as pets in the District of Columbia. A housing code lists the only animals legal to keep in the home: dogs, cats, rabbits, domesticated rodents, fish, turtles, non-poisonous snakes, caged birds and racing pigeons. However, the District of Columbia Health Department grants waivers on a case-by-case basis, so residents may obtain a permit.
New York City
Another notable area that doesn't allow pet ferrets is New York City, all five boroughs -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Ferrets are legal in the rest of the state, though rabies vaccinations are mandated by law in New York, as they are in many states and cities. Ferrets were banned in the city in 1999 by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who believed these relatives of weasels were potentially dangerous wild animals who posed risks in densely populated areas.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Is a Ferret Right for You?
- American Ferret Association: Summary of State- And Territory-Level Ferret Regulations
- The Los Angeles Times: California Ferret Owners Mount New Efforts to Have Their Pets Legalized in the State
- Hawaii Tribune-Herald: Illegal Ferret Captured
- State of Hawaii Department of Health: Rabies
- The New York Times: Court Upholds Giuliani-Era Ban on Pet Ferrets
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.