Despite being the only state in the continental U.S. where it’s illegal to own a ferret, California legislators continue to outlaw the creature, which has gained popularity in the U.S. since the 1980’s. Some estimates put its population in the country at over 800,000, with at least 200,000 illegally residing in the state.
California’s ban on domesticated ferrets dates back to 1933. Even though enthusiasts have been lobbying to overturn the law for decades, the state’s Fish and Game Commission maintains its position that the small-slender relative of the European polecat, is dangerous to poultry and other small animals. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger even vetoed ferret amnesty legislation when he was in office.
Officials have cited safety and environmental concerns if the pets escape into the wild.
Opponents say the state’s position is unreasonable, claiming there is no documented evidence of feral ferret colonies anywhere in the U.S. despite their widespread popularity outside California. They also say that hundreds of years of domestication have blunted their predatory instincts and their ability to survive in the wild.
Now, citing the state of the economy, ferret enthusiasts are trying a new strategy, suggesting a change in the law could bring more revenues to the state, according to a story in the Sacramento Bee.
They say that current owners in California who are secretly harboring the pets must purchase all their supplies, and the animals themselves, from neighboring states such as Nevada. If legal, all the additional economic activity generated by the pets, and sales tax collected by the state, could help make a tiny dent in the state’s massive budget deficit.
Debby Greatbanks, a member of the West Coast Ferrets Association confirms that it’s far more pricey than a hamster saying “It’s a good $500 investment.”
Michael Maddox, vice president for government relations at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Concil agrees. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that there would be a positive economic impact for California, for California businesses and for revenue for California.”