PO Box 1480
La Mesa, CA 91944
January 6, 2016
Ryan Ojakian, Legislative Director
Assemblyman Marc Levine
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0010
Dear Mr. Ojakian,
Our members and supporters are keenly interested in getting a hearing with Assemblyman Levine and the members of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
Since August we have been collecting signatures for a ballot measure which would legalize ferrets in California (Enclosed).
However, we knew we had no change of 365,000 valid signatures but at the time we felt it was a possibility to collect ¼ of that amount to trigger legislative hearings.
The evidence and documentation about why ferrets should be legal in California – and all I should have to point out is they’re legal in 48 states, already in California in large numbers, and very few problems occur because of them, should be overwhelmingly in our favor. We have the facts; we need some attention or service from our representatives.
As of today we are at 8,000 signatures, far short of the 91, 470 needed by next month. So we won’t be triggering those legislative hearings.
But we would like to ask for a legislative hearing anyway. Our members have spent many hours outside Petco’s and PetSmarts and other locations collecting those signatures and talking to people about ferrets and our rights as citizens of California. We deserve and democracy requires that we finally have a voice to say “ferrets mean a lot to us, they’re family and there is no valid reason to continue the ban on them.”
Therefore, I am asking you to schedule a hearing in front the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
We have also requested a meeting with Assemblyman in San Rafael so we can present the signatures we have gathered.
How can we proceed on this issue? It is time to wrap up the ferret issue, it’s not that complicated or controversial.
Also enclosed are signatures from a Change.org petition from people all over the world asking that we get our voice heard. It is a horrible feeling to be shut out.
What could these two issues have in common? A lot. Voting on the rights of others is usually not a good ideal.
Back in 2008 the rights of same sex couples to be married was successfully challenged. A right briefly enjoyed by a minority of the population was ripped away by the majority. Most people were simply unconcerned if gay people could get married or not. It didn’t affect them. But to same sex couples, whose rights were voted away, the consequences were immense. It was a tragic day that proved given a chance, Californians could vote to take rights away.
During the Prop 8 campaign we got an earful. “Gay people are icky.” “I don’t want my children learning about that.” “Princes shouldn’t be able to marry princes.” Ad nauseum.
I remember hearing from tourists to San Francisco. Disappointed they didn’t see any gay people.
You can’t have rights if you are invisible. The good thing that came out of Prop 8 is after the loss, gay people weren’t so invisible. Everyone seems to know someone who is gay.
And like a lot of gay people prior to 2008 – California ferret owners are invisible.
You won’t see ferrets out in public. They’re hidden away for their safety. Confiscation and euthanasia are common fears. I know, it happened to me.
But ferrets are here. We know that 27% of that nation’s ferret supplies are sold in California. We’ve heard that 70% of the ferrets sold in neighboring states are intended for the California market.
They bring us joy. They’re little clowns. Their antics amuse us and lift bad moods and dreary spirits.
But to the uninformed or misinformed “They bite.” “They stink.” “They attack babies.” “They’re wild animals who will run a muck.”
I’ve challenged those comments. Give me one instance of a feral ferret and I’ll drop my legalization efforts. That’s where the conversation generally ends. No feral ferrets have ever been documented.
The risk to babies and others is pretty minimal with common sense. Which admittedly can be surprisingly lacking. But are we supposed to wear bubble wrap to be safe? Ferrets were rated by the Centers for Disease Control as the safest interactive pet, second only to the guinea pig.
There is one objection to ferret legalization that has merit. People will buy them on impulse and quickly tire of the effort proper ferret ownership requires. We aren’t promoting ferrets per se, only the right to own them for those who truly desire and can afford it. Therefore we put a one-time license fee on ferrets of $100. That would put the average cost of a new ferret at $250 which should discourage impulse buying of such an intelligent and interactive pet.
Our appeals to our regulators have fallen on deaf or even hostile ears. Domestic ferrets were banned as wild animals in 1933 and no evidence was ever presented that in California, like the 48 states where they are legal – they’re house pets.
We’re not important enough for the legislators or Fish and Game Commissioners to take seriously.
We’re not the political elite. We don’t lobby with expensive trips or gifts. We are mostly working class people who want the right to have our pets without fear of cranky neighbors (or worse such as former spouses) turning us in.
I know firsthand the fear one gets seeing that white animal services, or worse, green Fish and Wildlife truck in your driveway.
Having done everything demanded of us, including preparing an Environmental Impact Report, which then required a CEQA Checklist – only to be ignored; Brave California ferret owners are collecting signatures to put the issue to the voters.
The California Legalization Initiative for Ferrets is aiming to collect at least the 91,470 signatures to get our proposed legislation considered by the legislature.
Unless the Koch Brothers take an unexpected interest in ferrets it is unlikely we will obtain the 365,000 signatures to put it on the ballot. No all-volunteer effort has ever succeeded and we don’t expect to be the first.
But we’re petitioning, meeting people and becoming visible. I’m not taking my ferrets to a petition table but a lot of us are out there being ferret owners and ferret lovers.
Consider the joy that we, “the little guy” could actually have a voice in our state government. Help make it happen. It will empower us all and make for better government.
A letter-to-the-editor to the Sacramento Bee brings up that question I've often wondered about. Why do people bother sending in a letter about a subject they know nothing about? Here is the offending letter.
Ferret legalization is a bad idea
Re “California ferret legalization cleared to collect ballot measure signatures” (Capitol & California, Aug. 19): Legalizing ferrets in California would be yet another example of the irresponsible leadership by our state government. Given the ferociousness, fertility and lack of larger predators to control them, ferrets could rapidly multiply and spread to become a threat to chicken farms, small native birds, animals and pets – ferrets only eat meat.
Like skunks, ferrets can carry rabies which can infect their owners – often small children.
I know, supposedly the ferrets will not escape, or only neutered, non-reproducing, vaccinated ferrets will escape and thus cannot multiply nor spread rabies.
There are many examples of imported animals overrunning areas without natural predators to control their spread – boa constrictors and pythons in the Florida Everglades, mongooses and brown tree snakes in Hawaii, rabbits in Australia, and ferrets in New Zealand.
RON W. LOUTZENHISER, GALT
There are two theories in politics when you are attacked. Counter it or ignore it. I'm a firm believer we need to counter such ignorance. Otherwise some people may believe it. So I sent my own letter to the Sacramento Bee:
Letter writer Ron Loutzenhiser sure misses the boat on ferrets. Why would someone so misinformed bother to write a letter to the editor. So let me set the record straight.
There are no feral ferrets in California. Or anywhere else. They’re house pets. Kind of like poodles. They aren’t out there terrorizing the eco system.
Ferrets ferocious? C’mon – Ron. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only the Guinea Pig is a safer pet when it comes to bite statistics. I guess they didn’t consider fish.
Ferrets overrunning an area without natural predators? Again – there are no feral ferrets in the world. OK, there are some feral ferret-polecat mixes in New Zealand and the Shetland Islands. But those are island eco systems.
It’s all covered in the Environmental Report the Fish and Game Commissioned required from us, available to all at http://legalizeferrets.org/images/documents/Final_Report.pdf
Ron, rights aren’t gifts from the government. Our rights come from a higher power and government’s job is to protect them. Something the Fish and Game Commission and you don’t seem to realize.
If you are going to restrict a freedom, in this case to own the domestic animal of one’s choice. You should have a good reason. You don’t even have good knowledge of the issue.
If someone brings up the subject of ferrets in public, but is so off track like Mr. Loutzenhiser, set 'em straight. Silence could be misconstrued as support.
It is hard to imagine how repealing a bad law would cost California money.
We would get decreased enforcement cost and increased economic activity from the sale of ferrets and ferret supplies. But just as I had feared the Fiscal Impact Report from the Legislative Analyst's Office doesn't see that.
Local animal control agencies would experience additional costs associated with enforcing laws related to ownership of pet ferrets, such as requirements for vaccinating, spaying, and neutering ferrets. These costs could total a few million dollars annually statewide. Most or all of these costs likely would be funded by the license fee authorized by this measure.
Summary of Fiscal Effects.
This measure would have the following major fiscal effect:
• Likely additional local government costs of a few million dollars annually for animal control enforcement activities, which could be largely or entirely offset by
the license fees authorized by the measure.
We went into this, and still believe legalizing ferrets would be an economic plus for California:
70% of the pet ferrets sold in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon are intended for the California market. Usually when someone buys a ferret, they also purchase supplies. This sales tax income would go to California if ferrets were available here.
Reduction in enforcement costs. Fish and Wildlife would have one less thing to worry about, the confiscation of pet ferrets. Some savings as they wouldn't have to chase after ferret owners anymore.
Increased economic activity for California veterinarians. Currently many ferret owners are afraid to take their ferrets to a vet. That fear would end meaning more people would seek veterinary care.
This week I received two emails from victims of California' prohibition on ferrets.
There are two kinds of problems people report. Being turned in for ferrets or not being able to come to California with pet ferrets. Which to us, are members of the family.
I live in California and I have 3 ferrets. They are my pets. My soon to be ex-husband called fish and game and reported to them that I have ferrets. I need some advice on what I should do. Thank you.
The ferret ban must be good for ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends. I've never heard from male ferret owners being turned in by women.
The second was from a gentleman in Brazil who just accepted a job in San Francisco. What a surprise to learn his ferret can't come? What do to?
Why is there a ban on ferrets? Does it protect us from invasive species? Then why couldn't get an example of any ferret being invasive. There is not one documented case of feral ferrets in teh USA.
Ferret prohibition isn't the biggest problem facing California. But stupidity is way up there.
I hope there is enough support amongst California ferret lovers to collect signatures and get this ban over turned.
Below is what we submitted:
In 1933 California's Wild Animal and Bird Importation law went into effect banning domestic ferrets as wild animals. However, no study or investigation was ever conducted. Additionally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife acknowledges that ferrets are indeed domestic animals.
Every state except California and Hawaii have lifted previous bans. Since the 1990s ferrets have been increasingly popular as pets and receipts from pet stores show California is #1 in the sale of ferret supplies.
This initiative proposes to legalize domestic ferrets in California provided that they are sterilized, vaccinated for rabies by six months and the owner pays a one-time licensing fee of $100 at the time of purchase.
We are making some pretty serious charges here. First, Fish and Wildlife is regulating a domestic animal, they have never conducted any study, survey or investigation as to the merits of banning a domestic animal. In other words, we've never had any kind of hearing yet our rights are violated.
And California the #1 state for ferrets, we can site proof through the receipts of pet store receipts, we know Californians buy 27% of the nation's ferret supplies, more than the next two states combined.
Will we be challenged on this? If so, will our opponents rely on facts or will they stick to the "we don't have time for this?" argument.
LegalizeFerrets.org Responds to Recent Ferret Confiscation in Santa Ana
On June 24th we received a call from Sebastian saying his 16 ferrets were confiscated. The story sounded a little convoluted at first, what normal person has 16 ferrets? – And here we go again.
To be honest, we found a loving ferret owner who took good care of the ferrets in his possession.
By the end of the day, the story had hit the news:
SAPD Animal Control Officers Arrest Suspect for Importation, Transportation and Possession of Live Restricted Animals
Arrested/Cite Released at scene : Alexander Swisher (23) Santa Ana Charges California Code of Regulations (CCR) 671 (K): Importation, transportation of live restricted animals
Santa Ana Police Department Animal Control Officers received information that the suspect Sebastian Alexander Swisher (23) was in possession of illegal Ferrets. Swisher was reportedly buying the Ferrets in the State of Nevada and transporting them to California where it is illegal
SAPD contacted Sebastian Alexander Swisher (DOB 11/12/1991) at his residence (3200 block of S. Center), arrested & cited/released at his residence for CCR 671 (K): importation, transportation of live restricted animals
16 ferrets were taken to OC Animal Care.
Here’s what we can say with pretty good confidence is what happened.
Sebastian had four ferrets of his own, 2 of his sisters and a number of ferrets he was trying to place into new homes. People had given him ferrets because he is a ferret lover and they thought the ferrets would find better homes.
Sebastian did place ads on Craigslist – this is his undoing.
Sebastian had an argument with another member of the household. Something about ferret odors. The next morning at 7am the police arrived and this person allowed the police into the house.
And now Sebastian is without his ferrets and in legal trouble.
But who’s the victim here? Did Sebastian do anything wrong?
Ferrets are popular pets, even in California. We don’t know how many ferrets are in the state, but we do know that 27% of the nation’s ferret supplies are bought in California.
We also know that ferrets have never had a hearing. They were arbitrarily lumped into the category of wild animals in the 1930’s – before ferrets became popular as house pets. The California Fish and Game Commission has never considered removing them. The closest they came was in 2000 when they said ferret proponents would have to agree to fund an Environmental Impact Report. A report was indeed commissioned in 2010 but never accepted by the Fish and Game Commission.
But the Commission continues to spread lies about ferrets. From the Santa Ana Police Department:
Sondra Berg is on tape with Channel 5 News saying:
“They can do a lot of damage to the flora and fauna in California and also some of our native animals because they are very aggressive animals and they are very aggressive hunters.”
But she told the Orange County Register:
“I have to give him credit,” Berg said Wednesday. “He took really good care of them.”
“He never really told us exactly where he was getting them from,” Berg said.
Though illegal in California, the animals are popular pets because of their playful nature, Berg said.
“They’re very fun to have, and they make good pets,” she said.
So we find this a schizophrenic approach to ferrets.
Legal in 48 states. No harm to the flora or fauna ever documented. Even the native wildlife has been safe from ferrets.
This is a terrible injustice against Sebastian. We stand with him. And we hope people will stand with us in legalizing these delightful animals.
How would you like your pets to be in danger of confiscation?
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.
We know of one person prosecuted, for selling ferrets on Craigslist in the past five years.
The biggest problem in trying to legalize ferrets in California – and this is not an issue in 48 states where they are legal is Who Cares?
It’s just a ferret - the only domestic member of the weasel family. Not the best pedigree, but didn’t our dogs descend from wolves?
And some of us do care – we care very deeply. We’ve come to love our little Bandits as they steal whatever they can and hide it under the couch. We need the entertainment that our ferrets provide.
Consequences of this rarely enforced law has its effects. People can’t get security clearances, Foster parents can’t have ferrets. I couldn’t get a real estate license because I am such a scofflaw with my ferrets. People are afraid to take their ferrets to their veterinarian.
So a plea to the Fish and Game Commission should fall on receptive ears. These ferrets are domestic. There isn’t one feral ferret colony in the entire country. They simply don’t have survival skills. Being a clown is not conducive to survival outside the confines of the house.
Or perhaps a legislator would take up our cause. Thousands of bills are introduced every year. Could one of them be about legalizing ferrets?
We commissioned a high priced environmental report. It disproved concerns expressed by authorities. Ferrets could only go feral on an island ecosystem with an absence of predators and an abundance of prey. That’s not California.
Fears of ferrets biting, or threatening agriculture and whatever else has been thrown at us were found to be unfounded.
Yet no help – and even hostility from the Fish and Game Commission. They rejected the environmental report, done within their guidelines with their input. A Public Records Request Act revealed that no one at the Fish and Game Commission or the Department of Fish and Wildlife had actually read the report they labeled as “incomplete.”
No legislator would introduce the bill either. Very few would even communicate with us. Even supposedly libertarian leaning Matthew Harper didn’t bother to respond to letters, petitions and a rally.
We just were not important enough.
And when a group of citizens isn’t important enough to even have a conversation with their regulators we all have a problem.
Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.
The only solution left to us is a ballot initiative.
And we’re going to give kudos to Governor Brown. Previously the initiative process was used to confuse and hoodwink the voters with expensive and confusing campaigns, bankrolled by special interests.
And thanks also to the low voter turnout in the last election the number of signatures required is only 360,000.
As an extra bonus, once we are 25% of the way there, the legislature considers our proposed legislation. There isn’t a lot of opposition to ferrets, but as I said, not many people care.
So even if you don’t care about ferrets – and that is perfectly alright, you should care about a state government that shuts out an un-empowered group of pet lovers, or anyone else.
Our government should remember the “public service” motive. We are the public.
For the sake of liberty for the little guys – please go to LegalizeFerrets.org and lend us some support!
Now that we are on the verge of a ballot initiative to legalize ferrets, something debated for years – I was hoping for a rush in memberships for the 3000 Club. So I put it out there on social media and CLIFFNotes – Now is the time to join the 3000 Club.
And I got a trickle. And most new members are not in California. They want to be in California, with their ferrets. And the prospects of leaving ferrets behind or confiscation is their motive for joining the effort to legalize ferrets.
Why don’t long time California ferret owners join the 3000 Club? I get a few answers but I think California ferret owners are content. They have their ferrets. Enforcement is pretty rare. Vets and supplies no problem.
I’m different. How dare you call my ferrets “invasive, non-native species, - a threat to wildlife?” Oh, come on!
It has always bothered me when rights are trampled on. If you are going to ban my ferrets you better have a good reason. If you pursue Fish and Game their end point is “we don’t have time for this.”
If we fail to legalize ferrets this time around, the fault will be ours.