Past Legalization Efforts
Lawsuit against Mayor Giuliani and the Department of Health
Affidavit of Gary Kaskel






) SS.:


GARY KASKEL, being duly sworn, deposes and says:

1. I am a native New Yorker, having been born and raised in Manhattan, where I currently reside. I am a college graduate, a published author, have produced public television programming and am well-traveled. I believe I am as much an expert on the subject of ferrets as any lay person can be. I learned much of what I know from the late Dr. Wendy Winsted, a pediatrician, who wrote three books on pet ferrets.

2. While I have never engaged in the commercial breeding of ferrets, I have been in contact with hundreds of ferrets, both at breeding farms and with individual owners. I have personally placed at least two dozen homeless ferrets in adoptive homes over the past five or six years. And for several years I headed a ferret club which had an annual event which drew hundreds of people.

3. With that in mind, and as a long-time ferret-owner myself, I can assert with authority that I am very familiar with the behavioral characteristics of this animal.

4. It is my experience that in the overwhelming percentage of cases, domestic ferrets make excellent and rewarding companion pets. The notion that they pose a public health risk any more than dogs or cats is unsupported by any scientific evidence, and is certainly inconsistent with my observations.

5. I would estimate that there are a least 10-20,000 pet ferrets in NYC. I base that estimate on the following two facts. First, a trip to any pet shop in the City reveals that ferret food is sold in nearly all of them. These stores would not be selling ferret food if there were no ferrets. Second. six years ago we placed a two-line advertisement on the back page of the Village Voice announcing a get-together of ferret owners in Central Park and got almost 200 people in attendance. The event was covered on local television and also reported in The New Yorker magazine.

6. The action of the Board of Health is purely irrational. Pet ferrets are not wild or dangerous. They are universally classified as domestic animals and successfully kept as lawful pets in major cities across the country and every county of New York State.

7. The four Board of Health members refused to attend the public hearing, which is a prerequisite for the promulgation of a regulation. No evidence at such meeting supported the proposed ban and no Board of Health member was there to discuss the public comments. As the petitioner, I attended such meeting and spoke in favor of pet ferrets, as did The ASPCA, The Humane Society of New York and The Animal Medical Center.

8. The Board of Health members also refused to personally discuss the merits of the City's proposal with me, even though I made a concerted effort to contact them individually by letter and telephone. All four members refused to talk to me; two refused to return my phone calls at all and two simply refused to discuss the issue. I even received a preposterous letter from the Health Department Secretary ordering me not to contact the Board members directly, and instructing me that the only "proper" way to communicate to Board of Health members was by letter addressed to the Health Department. Such letter clearly violates my First Amendment rights and the conduct by the Board members is transparent proof of the bad faith displayed by the Board.

9. The extreme animus for me held by Health Department officials stems from my involvement in the Shelter Reform Action Committee (SRAC). a humane oversight group that has been a highly visible critic of the Health Department's takeover of the City's animal shelter system from the ASPCA in 1995. SRAC has taken the City to court over Freedom of Information access to shelter records and Open Meetings Law requirements. We have placed several paid advertisements in The New York Times criticizing the mayor and the Health Department, and maintain a website ( that documents a litany of malfeasant and improper conduct by various Health Department and City officials in charge of these shelters. We have also garnered a great deal of negative attention by the local media. All this no doubt has angered Health Department officials. In my opinion, the actions of the Board of Health members transparently demonstrate their bias.

10. In the years of investigating this situation, having had contact with many state and municipal government officials in the public health sector, as well as the public medical and veterinary associations, I have never encountered more arrogance and rudeness and refusal to openly discuss or deal in any way, a subject in which the facts are so blatantly in dispute with the "professional opinions."

11. The misguided government officials who promulgated a regulation to impose their inherited prejudices upon a particular domestic animal have trampled on the constitutional rights of millions of decent, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens who happen to enjoy their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness by owning pet ferrets, and should be declared invalid.


Gary Kaskel
October 14, 1999