Are Ferrets Legal to Own in California?

Ferrets are wonderful and energetic creatures to have around. You may have just come from a state where they are legal but have recently moved to California and are now wondering if they are illegal, and what is the reasoning? Well, let us find out the answer down below. 

Ferrets are indeed illegal to own in California. The reasoning behind it is to protect agriculture and wildlife. The California Natural Resources Agency bans numerous amount of exotic plants. This includes the Department of Fish and Wildlife as well. Another concern is that owners may release ferrets into the wild, which can jeopardize animals and crops. 

In this article, we will be discussing quite a bit of the subject, such as why you can still purchase a ferret in California and if veterinarians are legally supposed to report a ferret to the authorities if you come in. Let us dig deeper into the subject.  

Why Are Ferrets Illegal In California?

As we have quickly learned above, ferrets are illegal in California due to protecting agriculture and other wildlife creatures. California has banned many exotic animals in the days passing, and if a ferret is to run off into the wild and grow their own colonies somewhere, then this can be a significant issue. It could easily jeopardize the growth of crops and other animals native to the area. 

For example, the boa constructor is not native to Florida. They are believed to have been imported from Latin America and let off into the wild. Because of this, it is tough to get rid of the population, and I have no doubt in my mind that California does not want to deal with this issue.

Can You Gain a Permit To Own a Ferret In California?

As a regular animal caregiver, it is not legal to own a ferret in California. However, there are still ways you can get one in a legal sense, which is meaning that you can import, transport, and possess it. This method is only through a permit, according to ferret.org

Permits are issued for specific purposes. If you were to use them for medical research, were a trainer, or a part of a shelter, this is acceptable, but it does not mean that you personally own them. Other ways you can gain a permit is through transporting and confiscating ferrets or rescuing stray ones from out of state. 

It is important to note that issuing a permit would be on a case-by-case basis, so if you are not using them for teaching, researching, or exhibition, then you can apply all you want but will not get accepted. 

If you wish to know more information on gaining a permit for these specific purposes, then visit the Restricted Species Permits page on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

Other Exotic Animals That Are Illegal In California

Aside from the ferret, there are actually quite a few animals you cannot legally own in California. They will ban entire classes and species. This state bans all rodents except domesticated hamsters and other domesticated mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Even for tiny mollusks such as certain species of snails, slugs, and clams, you cannot get them for yourselves. 

If you do not like this rule, you can always start a petition of your own. However, there are some petitions already on websites where you can get involved in. Many of these petitions are attempting to allow some exotic animals to be in California, such as sugar gliders, ferrets, and hedgehogs. 

Lastly, it is not legal to purchase a dog or cat that comes from breeding mills at your local pet store. This may seem frustrating to some, but this is an attempt to stop unlicensed breeding facilities and shut them down completely, so this is not an overall bad thing. 

However, here are the exotic animals that are currently illegal to own in California:

  • Gerbils
  • Squirrels
  • Gliding lemurs
  • Sloths
  • Anteaters
  • Sugar gliders
  • Bats
  • Giant toads
  • Cuckoo birds
  • Finches
  • Crayfish
  • Crows
  • Crocodiles
  • Tortoises
  • Larks
  • Non-domesticated races of rabbits
  • Armadillos
  • Hedgehogs
  • Monkeys

Do Veterinarians Need to Report Exotic Pets?

You probably already have a pet ferret and are living in California, anyways. Well, if that is the case, what if they get incredibly sick and you need to take them to the veterinarian? Will they report your animal because they are not meant to live in California?

Actually, vets are not required to report them to the authorities. If they suspect that someone is abusing their animal, then that is an entirely different story, but it is not illegal if vets do not report them in terms of simply bringing them in. However, it does not mean that reports have not happened in the past before. 

What Happens If You Own a Ferret or Another Illegal Pet?

© Adam B. Summers / Orange County Register

Some 20 protesters rallied Jan. 1 outside a Huntington Beach PetSmart.
They asked Assemblyman Matthew Harper to legalize ferrets as pets in California.

Because the California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not have the resources or staff to go on a strict basis to enforce this ferret ban, nothing will TRULY happen unless it is reported back to them.

This in itself will confiscate your ferret from you, and you may face some penalties for owning an illegal animal:

  • You will have a civil fine of anywhere between $500 to $10,000.
  • You will be fined a criminal charge up to $1000.
  • The cost of storing, removing, and caring for the animal.
  • You will have a misdemeanor criminal charge punished by up to 6 months in jail.

Prosecution for criminalization is rare, but it can still happen. However, fines and confiscations can be costly. 

What Other States Are Ferrets Restricted In?

Other than in California, there are quite a bit of other states that ferrets are restricted in. These states include:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Here are some of the reasons why they may be restricted in your state:

  • Illegal to sell.
  • Illegal to own if you have a small child within your home.
  • Not allowed in specific towns or cities by the local authorities.
  • Compulsory rabies shots.
  • Permit that is required per the state’s orders.
  • Needing a permit to bring a ferret into your state.

Are Ferrets Dangerous Animals?

One of the main concerning questions we receive is if a ferret is a dangerous animal. They are not harmful in the sense where they will hurt you without a true purpose behind it (such as if they are angry or are mistreated), but if they scratch or bite, it can leave a severe wound, especially if the ferret has not had their rabies shots and has come in contact with a rabid animal. 

This is especially true with younger children because they can become more at risk for bites from ferrets since they tend to tug and pull without knowing any repercussions. This is why it is imperative to train your ferret not to nip and bite, and you can do it in the same way you will teach your dogs and cats not to be vicious. 

On another important note, a domesticated ferret is usually good at not being aggressive, but do not be mistaken by playful behavior. When they are happy, they will make chirping noises called “dooking.” These noises can be loud or soft. Look for the tail wagging as well. 

Last Words

To conclude what we have been going over, ferrets are illegal to own in the state of California due to protecting agriculture and other wildlife in their areas. Because they are exotic creatures and not native to the state, they have decided to make a law against it.

However, you can own a ferret under permitted circumstances, such as research, education, and places like the zoo, so there is a slight exception. All in all, we hope this has enlightened you! 

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