|STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK
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 (www.ShelterReform.org)
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
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.
October 14, 1999