How the Ban Began

Ferret History Summary

Note, We just received this document (January 23, 2017)  in response to our Public Records Request Act where we asked “just when the Fish and Game Commission determine that ferrets aren’t normally domesticated in this state.”  We are trying to convince the Fish and Game Commission to once again issue permits for pet ferrets as they did for neutered male ferrets prior to 1986.

• August 1933. Wild bird and animal importation law (unlawful to import and transport, unless permitted by Fish and Game Commission).
• December 1933. “Rules and Regulations Governing the Importation of Wild Birds and Animals” were adopted by the Fish and Game Commission and Department of Food and Agriculture [absolutely prohibits importation of ferret and fitch].
• In 1974, the Fish and Game Code entitled The Importation and Transportation of Live Wild Animals was amended to include almost all members of Mustelidae.
• January 24, 1975. The opening sentence of Section 671, Title 14, CCR, was revised, as follows: “The following species of the families which are prohibited or for which a permit is required are determined to be not normally domesticated in the state and shall not be imported into, transported within; or possessed in this state, and permits for their entry…” Section 671.2, regarding Neutered Male Animals, was amended for allowing DFG to permit entry of neutered male animals not otherwise admissible, provided the application was accompanied by certification of neutering.
• 1976. The Commission adopted regulations that prohibited the issuance of permits for ferrets, except that permits could be issued for neutered male ferrets, for exhibition in zoos, for use in scientific or public health research by scientific institutions, and for public display or for exhibition in motion pictures and television.
• Late 1970s. Department of Food and Agriculture border check stations began detecting illegally imported ferrets.
• February 1, 1980. The number of requests received by the Commission to possess ferrets in California was increasing significantly. In testimony before the Commission, the Department reported that there were numerous un-neutered ferrets in the possession of people in California. Regulations provided for the importation of neutered male ferrets. However, there was no provision for importation of spayed female ferrets, so the Department was asked to develop a proposal to resolve the matter.
• March 7, 1980. The Department presented its proposal regarding importation and possession of female ferrets. The Commission approved the issuance by the Department of permits to possess female ferrets in California, if they were verified as having been acquired prior to March 7, 1980 and as having been spayed and marked. Following a 60-day moratorium on arrests, future requests for importation or possession of female ferrets would be denied. Also, the Commission denied a request for permits to import ferrets for sale.
• July 12, 1982. Department law enforcement reported that a significant increase was noted in numbers of ferrets intercepted at Agricultural Inspection Station. Also, numbers of people found to be illegally breeding ferrets in California was increasing. Two wardens were assaulted in a case involving illegal ferret breeding.
• July 12, 1982. The Department of Fish and Game established policy to deny issuance of permits to California residents to import and possess neutered males of prohibited animals, including ferrets. Such permits would be issued only to persons moving to California who already possessed such pets. This policy was made at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
• September 30, 1985. Department of Food and Agriculture position letter recommended “No change in present regulations” restricting ferrets.
• October 4, 1985. Department of Health Services position letter requesting “Don’t relax or eliminate present restriction on ferrets.”
• October 11, 1985. The Department informed the Commission of position statements by Department of Fish and Game, Department of Food and Agriculture, and Department of Health Services to continue restrictions on ferrets.
• November 1, 1985. The Commission approved a request for possession of two spayed female ferrets. Also, the Commission requested an in-depth analysis of potential problems associated with Commission authorization of ferrets for pet purposes.
• 1986. Beginning of intensive ferret legalization efforts in California by pro-ferret groups.
• February 2, 1986. The Department provided the requested analysis of potential problems associated with Commission authorization of ferrets for pet purposes.
• March 7, 1986. The Commission voted to uphold regulations restricting ferrets and supported strict enforcement.
• July 15, 1986. The Department announced its policy to deny all requests for permits for neutered male ferrets pending Commission consideration of a proposal to repeal 671.2, Title 14, CCR.
• October 7, 1986. Pre-publication of Notice to prohibit the importation and possession of neutered male animals not otherwise admissible.
• Under a policy adopted in 1986 by the Fish and Game Commission, neutered male ferrets were made illegal as pets in California, except for those which were already pets at that time. Their owners were granted permits to keep the ‘grandfathered’ pet ferrets, but no new pet ferrets could be acquired in or brought into California.
• January 1987. The Commission directed the Department to discontinue issuing permits to possess prohibited species for pet purposes, except for those who legally possessed such animals in California at that time.
• May 15, 1987. The Commission voted to repeal Section 671.2, Title 14, CCR, thereby prohibiting the importation, transportation, and possession of neutered males of restricted animals listed in Sec. 671, including ferrets.
• February 10, 1988. Superior Court of California for San Diego County—Gross v. State—ruled as a matter law that section 2116 and 2118 of the Fish and Game Code and Section 671,Title 14, CCR, are constitutional and can be applied to restrict domestic ferrets.
• October 1988. Subsections (a) and (b) of Section 671, Title 14, were added: “(a) It shall be unlawful to import, transport, or possess alive animals restricted in subsection (c) below …“ and “(b) The commission has determined the below listed animals are not normally domesticated in this state.” These and additional verbiage replaced “The following species of the families which are prohibited or for which a permit is required are determined to be not normally domesticated in the state and…” The list continued to include the Family Mustelidae (all species).
• December 1988. Department of Health Services published an assessment of the hazard posed by ferrets to public health, small livestock, and wildlife. Information was obtained on 452 ferret attacks on people during 1978-1987, one hundred of which were in California.
• 1989. California Domestic Ferret Association lead ferret legalization efforts in the state (1989-1996).
• 1992. California Domestic Ferret Association v. California Fish and Game Commission, et al.
• August 3, 1995. Presentation to the Commission by California Domestic Ferret Association requesting legalization of ferrets as pets.
• November 2, 1995. Presentation to the Commission by California Domestic Ferret Association requesting legalization of ferrets as pets.
• November 8, 1996. The State Deputy Attorney General informed the Commission that, in his opinion, the Commission did not have the authority to adopt regulations to remove restrictions on ferrets, so legalization of ferrets was a legislative matter. The Commission accepted that decision and proposed to work with the California Legislature on legislation to provide guidance and clarification to the Commission.
• December 1996. Marshall Farms v. Commission: Marshall Farms, New York, the largest ferret breeding facility in the U.S., sued the Fish and Game Commission on grounds that it had failed to fulfill its mandated statutory duty to reclassify the ferret. The Commission appealed an unfavorable finding in that case.
• January 1997. Pat Wright, leader of Ferrets Anonymous, was the defendant in a case brought by the City of San Diego against him in 1996 for attempting to conceal from health officials a ferret that had bitten a child (People v. Wright). The City prevailed. Mr. Wright used the case to challenge the constitutionality of Fish and Game Code Section 2118 (B), with regard to the inclusion of ferrets as a Wild Animal. On April 30, 1997 his constitutional challenge was rejected.
• February 1997. AB 409 (Machado) was introduced to give the Fish and Game Commission, with cooperating state agencies, sole authority to regulate the importation, transportation and possession of all “restricted” animals, including the ferret.
• February 1997. AB 363 (Goldsmith) was introduced to legalize ferrets. Failed passage in Senate Appropriations Committee in 1998.
• January 9, 1998. Marshall Farms v. Commission: The Superior Court granted the writ of mandate. Commission filed an appeal to the Superior Court judgment.
• September 1999. Marshall Farms v. Commission: The Appellate Court opinion rendered.
• February 3, 2000. Presentation to the Commission by Californians for Ferret Legalization that the Commission consider removing ferrets from the restricted species list. The hearing was continued to April 6, 2000.
• April 6, 2000. The California Fish and Game Commission, explained at the meeting, a regulatory action by the Commission is considered a project under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires the preparation of an environmental document. Therefore, at the conclusion of public testimony, the Commission directed the Californians for Ferret Legalization, as project proponents, to fund the preparation of the environmental document to assess the potential impact to the environment of this proposed action. The Commission would not be in a position to again consider this matter until the Department received and reviewed the environmental document.
• In 2001, Pat Wright (of San Diego Ferrets Anonymous), filed a lawsuit (Pat Wright vs. California Fish and Game Commission) against the California Fish and Game Commission over their April 6th decision. Back in April the Commission said they would not discuss ferret legalization further until ferret proponents paid for another study on the environmental impact of ferret legalization.
• June 2001 — court granted the Department of Fish and Game’s request for summary judgment to throw out lawsuit CDFG’s motion for summary judgment for declaratory relief over the ferret ban was rejected. Judgment was entered against Appellant on July 1, 2002. The Notice of Appeal from the Judgment was filed by Appellants on August 16, 2002, appealing from the final judgment and order after final judgment. In January 2003, Wright’s appeal was denied.
• December 15, 2010, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• February 2, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• March, 3, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• April 6, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• August 3, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony – Commissioners indicated they were not interested in considering this matter; because other matters of higher importance currently exist.
• September 15, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• October 19, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• December 15, 2011, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• February 2, 2012, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• March 7, 2012, Commission meeting – Public Forum testimony
• September 26, 2012. Letter from Assemblymember Ben Hueso directing Commission to work with LegalizeFerrets.org association in clarifying the necessary next steps that would need to occur for the Commission to objectively consider their Petition to legalize ferrets.