De Blasio Moves to Lift NYC Ferret Ban; Giuliani the Ferret-Hater Doesn’t Even Care Anymore

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Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

In case there was any doubt that it's a new era in the city, the New York Times has the big news that Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to lift the ban on ferret ownership, instituted and rigorously defended by Rudy Giuliani in 1999, and supported in court by the Bloomberg administration. But the groundswell of protest by the local ferret-loving community, including a Facebook page for legalization with 74 "likes" and a Change.org petition with 352 e-signatures, could not be ignored.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will recommend a repeal of the ban, which officially prohibits “All fur bearing mammals of the family Mustelidae, including, but not limited to, weasel, marten, mink, badger, ermine, skunk, otter, pole cat, zorille, wolverine, stoat and ferret.” (The zorille and ermine people are apparently much quieter about their pet passions.)

Other animals banned as pets by the city include:

  • Potbellied pigs
  • Hedgehogs
  • Non-domesticated dogs (wolf, fox, coyote, hyaena, dingo, jackal, dhole, fennec, raccoon dog, zorro, bush dog, aardwolf)
  • Non-domesticated cats (lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, puma, panther, mountain lion, cheetah, wild cat, cougar, bobcat, lynx, serval, caracal, jaguarundi, margay)
  • Bats
  • Iguanas
  • Marsupials
  • Elephants

Ferret freedom is a win for the nihilists, sure, but this will not be ferret anarchy — there are rules here, including “requirements for spaying and vaccination,” the Times reports, plus “certain restrictions, such as the removal of a ferret’s anal glands, which can produce an unpleasant scent.” From the health department’s memo considering action:

On the pro side: “Evidence shows ferrets do not bite more frequently or severely than other pets the same size.”

On the con side: “There may be injuries, especially to infants.”

If people want to try to balance a baby and a ferret, that’s on them. (New York's small-pets guide is here.)

The return of the rodent does give the rest of us an always-welcomed opportunity to revisit Giuliani’s infamous ferret rant (and Slate’s pitch-perfect animation of said rant) during which he told an advocate for the animals, “Get a life.” Giuliani continued, “You need help. You need somebody to help you. This obsessive concern with little weasels is a sickness,” he said. “You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and have him help you with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels.”

These days, eh. “I had no big ideological involvement; this is something I came to tabula rasa,” Giuliani told the Times, largely ambivalent about, or at least resigned to, de Blasio’s evolution on the issue. It certainly didn’t sound that way at the time.