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Home > Ferrets > Why Are Ferrets Illegal In California? Facts, & FAQ

Why Are Ferrets Illegal In California? Facts, & FAQ

holding ferret

Ferrets are getting more popular as a pet throughout the entire United States, so why are they illegal in California? What makes them so controversial that a person isn’t allowed to have one in their home? Are they dangerous or is it something else behind that issue? There are more reasons for this. Let’s find out!


When Did Ferrets Become Illegal in California?

Ferrets have been illegal to own in California since the year 1933. There have been some changes throughout the years regarding permits to own a ferret, but in the entire period from 1933 up to now, their legality in the state did not change.

The entire timeline regarding ferret legalities started when laws regarding wild bird and animal importation said that ferrets weren’t allowed to be imported and transported to California unless a person has a permit from The Fish and Game Commission. In the same year, a document titled “Rules and Regulations Governing the Importation of Wild Birds and Animals” completely prohibited the importation of ferrets due to decisions from the Fish and Game Commission alongside the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Credit: christels, Pixabay

The 3 Reasons Ferrets Are Illegal in California

There are many reasons why ferrets are illegal to own in California, but the majority of them are based largely on information about the ferret from decades ago, and not everyone agrees with their accuracy.

1. Ferrets Are Wild and Aggressive Animals

The first reason refers to ferrets as wild animals. However, many people retort that ferrets have been mingling with humans for more than 2,500 years. Their ability to live in domestication as pets in many states and countries is proof of their tame nature. Ferrets don’t have a fear of humans, just like cats and dogs don’t, which is another thing that separates them from wild animals.

When it comes to aggression, ferrets can be aggressive when provoked, as is true of many domesticated animals. That means there is not a chance that a ferret will come and bite you just for the sake of it. If a ferret bites, it can be for several reasons, just like a dog.

Image By: eluxirphoto, Pixabay

2. Ferrets Carry Rabies

Before we start talking about this topic, let’s talk about rabies. For an animal to catch rabies, it needs to come in contact with an infected animal. The infected animal spreads rabies through bites and scratches. That means the possibility of a ferret catching rabies depends on whether they leave the house or not (pending that there are no unvaccinated animals living in the house).

They don’t require daily walks like dogs, nor do they explore the neighborhood like some cats. But they do require daily exercise, so we have to let them out of the cage twice a day, inside the home.

Ferrets can’t survive on their own in nature for a long time, so catching rabies and returning home is rare. That is why this is not an impossible scenario, but it is highly unlikely.

If a person fears that a ferret can catch rabies, there is a solution for that too. There is an approved vaccine for a ferret against rabies, but it is not an obligatory vaccine. It is up to the ferret owner to tell the veterinarian to provide this for their pet.

ferret_Alexandra Koval_Shutterstock
Image By: Alexandra Koval, Shutterstock

3. Ferrets, If Released in the Wild, Will Affect Wildlife

Ferrets are mustelids, which means they are predators. The natural ferret diet consists of small animals like rodents, birds, and even reptiles. So, if a ferret escapes, there is a chance that a ferret will try to hunt those animals and probably eat a few. But it won’t affect the wildlife in extreme measures.

If a pet ferret escapes, it most likely won’t survive in the wild. There is one estimation that a pet ferret can survive on its own for a couple of days, especially in California. Although ferrets are predators, California is filled with bigger predators that can see a ferret as a tasty snack. Wolves and feral cats are a few examples, so we can’t say that ferrets would become apex predators in California.

Another natural ferret enemy is Californian weather. California is a warm state, meaning it can go up to 70°F, even 80°F during summer. Ferrets, on the other hand, can’t handle hot weather. The highest temperature for a ferret to function properly is 70°F. Everything above that number is a serious issue to ferret because it can experience a heatstroke that can lead to death.

Another reason colony development is not likely is that most pet ferrets are neutered or spayed. Every ferret that comes from a ferret farm or a pet store is neutered or spayed. That means they can’t have offspring because they lost the ability to reproduce. So, if a ferret somehow escapes high temperatures, wild predators, traffic, and other dangerous situations, it still can’t set up a colony because it doesn’t have the necessary tools for it.

ferret outdoor
Image By: MichaelSehlmeyer, Pixabay

What Happens If You Have a Ferret in California?

Owning a pet ferret in California can result in monetary fines, criminal charges, and even jail time. The fines can be from $500 up to $10,000. If you are caught, ferret owners may also be charged to pay for transportation, handling, and storing every ferret they find in their home. Most cases end up without criminal prosecution, but many fines can add up and be costly.

It’s worth noting that the only way for a person to get fined for owning a ferret is if someone reports it to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Final Thoughts

As we can see, owning a pet ferret in California was always an issue. Whether or not it is right, ferrets are not a welcome animal in the state for potential pet owners. Luckily, if you are a California resident, there are many other domesticated animals you can consider if you are looking to add a new member to your family.

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Featured Image Credit: Mitskevich Uladzimir, Shutterstock

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