How The Ferret Ban Started
New York City Department of Health Bans Ferrets
On June 29th, 1999, the New York City Department of Health voted unanimously at its quarterly meeting, to establish a list of animals to prohibit as pets in New York City. The list included ferrets, which are now banned as pets in New York City's five boroughs under New York City Health Code Section 161.01. Although the Department of Health is not actively seeking out ferret owners, ferrets found in New York City's five boroughs may be confiscated and turned over to Animal Care and Control.
Ferrets are legal pets in New York State, and although it was illegal to sell ferrets in NYC, there was no law prohibiting their possession in New York City prior to the 1999 ban. The New York City Department of Health maintained that "Dangerous wild animals naturally inclined to do harm" had been prohibited in New York City for years, and that ferrets were part of that category. However, since ferrets are domesticated animals, not wild, and since they are neither dangerous nor "naturally inclined to do harm," the ban, worded as such, did not apply to ferrets. Since the NYC Department of Health was unable to enforce the "Dangerous wild animal" ban as it applied to ferrets, they decided to amend the health code to include a specific list of animals of their own choosing to ban in New York City. Ferrets are included in that list.
On June 3rd 1999, prior to instituting the ban, the DOH held a public hearing during which numerous people spoke in favor of removing ferrets from the proposed list of banned animals, including the ASPCA, the Humane Society, vets from the Animal Medical Center, and New York City Council Member Kathryn Freed. Not one person at the hearing spoke against ferrets. The Department of Health chose to ignore testimony presented at the hearing, and to rely instead on the written testimony of a "Star Witness" - an anonymous vet from New Hampshire. The testimony of that vet was later obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, and found to be full of gross inaccuracies and misinformation (see below). Regardless, on June 29th 1999, the New York City Department of Health approved the addition of the specific list of banned animals (which includes ferrets) to DOH Health Code Section 161.01.
More Information on How the Ban Started
Pro-Ferret Speakers from the June 1999 public hearings who urged the Department of Health not to ban ferrets.