Is Ferret Legalization This Year’s Prop 8?

Same Sex Marriage and Ferret Legalization?

What could these two issues have in common? A lot. Voting on the rights of others is usually not a good ideal.

Legalize Ferrets
Pat Wright, author, working hard on ferret legalization. Don't disappoint me!

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.

Please help us. You can download petitions at

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.