The Board of Health Doesn’t Care about the Legality of Ferrets, yet They Remain Illegal

March 12, 2015 | Liam Mathews

On Tuesday, the NYC Board of Health failed to come to a consensus on whether or not to legalize possession of pet ferrets in the city. The vote was 3-2 in favor of lifting the ban, but five voters on the 10-member board abstained. Since neither side was able to secure a majority vote, the motion failed.

The New York Times has a rundown of how peculiar it is that so many members of the usually outspoken board abstained from voting. They reportedly withheld primarily because they don’t want to take a political stance on an issue they view as unimportant, and risk alienating voters on either side of the issue. Board member Bruce Vladeck, who abstained, is quoted as saying he doesn’t care either way if ferrets are legal. Democratic consultant George Arzt says that he would advise the mayor, and by extension, the Board of Health, to have no opinion.

“I would not lose a vote over a ferret vote,” he said.

One anonymous board member said that some abstainers fear that ferrets could be a health hazard, escaping from their cages, wandering into neighboring apartments and biting children (the Times cites a recent ferret attack on an infant in Pennsylvania).

There are also concerns that ferrets carry rabies. But Kenric Holger, writing for science news website Breaking Bio, writes:

No doubt Rabies is a potentially devastating disease, and furthermore, the NYC board of health may have had the best of intentions with this recent ruling. However, the probability of a ferret-driven outbreak seems almost absurdly unlikely, especially since precautions are already set in place for domesticated dogs and cats.

Since the majority of dogs and cats — the main animals that ferrets would come in contact with — are vaccinated, the chances of a ferret-borne outbreak are slim. And while attacks on children from ferrets are certainly concerning, they are no more likely than injuries from dogs or cats, and considerably less prevalent.

If the threat posed by ferrets is overstated, a petition advocating for overturning the ban gained 10,000 supporters, and the people with the power to legalize ferrets don’t care either way, why not make the small but not insignificant population of ferret fans happy? Noted ferret-hater Rudy Giuliani is irrelevant now. Watch this video of a little weasel and then say people should be deprived of this kind of playtime.

(Photo: Tambako The Jaguar)