Modern Ferret Magazine
For ferret owners. By ferret owners.™
|Modern Ferret : Press Releases : NYC May 21, 2001|
May 21, 2001
MAYOR GIULIANI VETOES THE FERRET LEGALIZATION BILL
From left to right:
Council Member Kathryn Freed (sponsor of the ferret legalization bill), Council Member Una Clarke (who called us "evil ferret lovers" during the City Council vote), Mayor Giuliani (who compared legalizing ferrets to legalizing tigers), and Dr. Neal Cohen (Commissioner of Health - who is decidedly anti-ferret).
It was obvious right at the start of the hearing that the Mayor had flanked himself with the people who would be pleased with his decision.
After the hearing, the ferret people discuss what to do next.
Mary is the pink/purple hair in the middle.
City Hall is a big place. The small dots by the central column at the top of the steps are the ferret people discussing what to do now.
The following is Mary's testimony on May 21, 2001:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of ferrets and ferret owners of New York City. I am considered an authority on ferrets. I am the Editor of Modern Ferret Magazine and the author of two books on pet ferret care. Since 1992 I have had 11 ferrets and currently have five in my home.
Ferrets are not wild animals by any definition. The ferret has been classified as domesticated by the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum of Natural History, The USDA, and 155 zoos and zoological organizations. By its nature, a domesticated species is not "inclined to do harm," as that is exactly what the domestication process breeds out of a species.
All animals - including humans - are capable of biting. As with any pet, a ferret must be monitored with children for the safety of both the child and the animal. It is the pet owner's responsibility to know his or her pets, regardless of the species.
Domesticated species, such as the ferret, do not exist in the wild. Their proper habitat is in people's homes. Ferrets live in apartment buildings in cities throughout the world, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, London, and Tokyo. Real life experience tells us that ferrets going through walls is simply not a major concern.
Ferrets are curious animals. However, while the odd exceptional ferret might be able to unscrew a soda bottle top that hasn't been screwed on very tightly, I have no faith that any ferret - even a very bright ferret - could open the child-proof containers that dangerous chemicals come in.
Rabies is a concern with any mammal. However, there is not a single case of a ferret transmitting rabies to a human - even before there was an approved vaccine for ferrets. Besides, this bill requires ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies, just as dogs are.
I urge you - on behalf of all the citizens of New York City and on behalf of ferrets - to sign Intro 627-A and make ferrets legal in New York City.
Commentary from Eric:
We went into NYC today to Mayor Giuliani's hearing for the ferret legalization bill. There was a good turnout of NYC ferret people and many of them spoke and did a very good job at making their pro-ferret points. A representative from the ASPCA and a representative from the HSNY also spoke.
This has been a very public issue with lots of television and newspaper coverage. At the original DOH hearing to ban ferrets, at the City Heath Council hearing, AND at this hearing before Mayor Giuliani -- at no time did any citizen speak against ferrets. Certainly any concerned citizen who wanted ferrets to not be legal would have had the opportunity to speak at at least one of these hearings. The only people who have spoken against ferrets at these hearings have been from the Department of Health, City Council members who were against the bill, and Mayor Giuliani himself.
In any case, the information did not help as Mayor Giuliani had his heart set on vetoing the bill. He said that ferrets should be illegal in NYC for the same reasons that tigers are. He feels that both animals are dangerous to the public.
This leaves it up to New Yorkers to convince enough Council Members who voted "no" or abstained to change their votes to "yes" -- otherwise this chance at legalization is gone. The bill won't even get a second chance to be voted on unless ferret owners can demonstrate that they have changed at least 8 Council Members to pro-ferret.
If ferret people fail to achieve this, there are more options down the road -- but they are just that... down the road.
Mayor Giuliani stated that he felt that ferret people were going about this the wrong way as one of the reasons he vetoed the bill. He thinks that the Council has no right to pass laws that encroach on the territory of the Department of Health. Mayor Giuliani thinks the proper way to change the ban is to get the Department of Health to change its stance on ferrets. A case of which branch of government can go over the heads of which branch of government.
People like Gary Kaskel have been working a VERY long time to change the Department of Health's stance. The DOH does not seem interested in any of the information presented by Gary, the ASPCA, the HSNY, or anyone else that is pro-ferret.
What I would wonder is what circumstances would change the person in charge of the DOH? Is this a position appointed by the Mayor? If a pro-ferret Mayor is elected, would it be possible to get the ban lifted through the DOH (which is how Mayor Giuliani suggested it be done) instead of by getting legislation passed?
Gary Kaskel has an ongoing lawsuit over this same issue. Another case of which branch can go over the heads of which branch. This appears to be an interesting avenue to pursue, but one with which I am not very familiar.
If the above all fail, it will be necessary to try again next year. This will necessitate finding a new bill sponsor and going through all the steps that the current bill has already been through. That would make this issue continue to go on, with all the while NYC being used as an example to encourage other places to make ferrets illegal.
Also from Eric:
After the hearing we had a chance to speak to a woman who had shown up with her children. Her daughter has a ferret who is considered part of the family. One of their neighbors turned her in to the Department of Health. The Department of Health has sent her a letter regarding this ferret. She now fears for what will happen to the ferret -- and for how her children will handle the ordeal.
It is frightening to think that someone could harm their neighbors by "ratting out" their ferrets. That companions who are members of your family can be removed from your life no matter how innocent, friendly, and cuddly they are.
This is why it is VITAL that ferrets be legalized. Animals being abused/abandoned is a problem that is part of the human condition. It will not be solved by something as simple as ferrets being sold or not sold in pet stores. It is a problem well beyond the scope of a small FML post.
However, animals being taken away from good situations and happy homes for the sake of senseless laws is something that can easily be remedied -- change the senseless laws.
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