Posted: January 5, 2015, 7 p.m. EST
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Has the time finally come for ferret ownership to be legalized in New York City?
Pet ferrets have been illegal to own in New York City since 1999, but that doesn’t mean ferrets aren’t in the city. And the law is making ferret owners criminals, with some fearful to take their pet to a veterinarian. Ferret enthusiasts have fought this ban for years, but new hope dawned in 2014 when Ariel Jasper of Brooklyn started a Change.org petition to lift the ban and, more importantly, got the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to reconsider the ban.
Ferret enthusiasts can help by making their voices heard in the next few weeks. And ferret owners and enthusiasts everywhere can help; you do not need to live in New York City.
Deadline To Submit Comments
According to Jasper, "Right now is a critical period in the movement as the Board of Health is taking public comments now until January 21st at 5 p.m. They have made it as accessible as possible by providing multiple ways to do so.”
She said that people can visit the NYC rules website by January 21 and register to submit a comment about the proposed rules on the page Animals (Article 161) and Reportable Diseases and Conditions (Article 11). This rule would lift the ban on ferret ownership in New York City as long as three safeguards are in place: ferrets are immunized against rabies, ferrets are neutered, ferrets are restrained when outdoors.
Jasper said comments can also be sent via email, postal mail or fax. The deadline for all written comments is 5 p.m. EST, January 21, 2015.
The postal address is: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Gotham Center, 42-09 28th Street – CN 31, Long Island City, NY 11101-4132; The fax number is: 347-396-6087.
A hearing will be held on January 21 at 2 p.m. at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Jasper said anyone who wishes to speak at the hearing must sign up by calling Svetlana Burdeynik at 347-396-6078 or by signing up in the hearing room before or during the hearing. Speakers can talk for up to five minutes.
Jasper hopes that people will make comments supporting lifting the ban on private ferret ownership but ask that the city not allow stores to sell them. She hopes that will reduce the risk of ferrets becoming fad pets and overwhelming the shelter system.
Why are comments from the public important? Jasper said members of the board don’t know much about ferrets, so comments by experts and owners can help them know what they are like as pets.
Getting word out about the deadline for the public comments and the hearing is critical to Jasper. "Right now the focus is on outreach as many ferret owners in NYC still don't know that the public comments are now happening, as some news sites have incorrectly stated the ban was lifted,” she said.
For more updates about what's happening, check out the Facebook page for Legalizing Ferret Ownership In NYC.
Progress And Support For Ferret Legalization In New York City
Jasper initiated this effort to get ferrets legalized in New York City almost a year ago.
"I am happy with the progression of these efforts,” she said. "Within a year's time of my submission to the mayor's office we have been given a public hearing, and it is very rare for the board to allow a petition from an individual to go up for review like this. The board is showing a true interest in reevaluating the issue of ferrets in NYC and is trying to give us the best chance to show them ferrets are not the animals they thought them to be when they instituted the ban.”
L. Vanessa Gruden, who is executive director of Ferret Association of Connecticut, Inc., is a supporter of Jasper’s efforts to legalize ferrets in New York City.
"It's in the Ferret Association mission to support other shelters and organizations caring for ferrets,” Gruden said. She wants to help Jasper get smart, humane rules in place. "In speaking to Ariel, it was clear she is a thoughtful, smart woman who cares about doing what's best for the animals. We thought, as a neighboring state, we could bring both the benefit of our experiences and contacts in the humane community to her fight and are happy to be assisting her initiative.”
Ferrets have been domesticated for more than 2,000 years and are legal to have as pets in 48 states in the United States (Hawaii and California are the exceptions).
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