Ferret enthusiasts hoping to bring their furry friends into mainstream NYC society suffered a setback Tuesday when the health department voted to uphold the ban on the domesticated critter.
“We’re left wondering where to go at this point, and we’re frustrated this wasn’t as democratic a process as we were lead to believe,” said Ariel Jasper, a Brooklyn resident who started a petition last year to legalize the animals.
Jasper said she was concerned that a board appointed by the health department didn’t fully review the more than 400 written comments of public testimony received at a public hearing in December.
The city Board of Health voted 3-2 against the ferrets, with five who didn’t vote. The measure needed six votes to pass. Jasper it said the non-voting members seemed not have enough information to comfortably vote.
Jasper said many New York ferret owners are responsible, and are actively involved with ferret rescue, but afraid of persecution now that the ban continues.
“Even being a rescue is illegal, that’s the unfortunate thing about this,” said Jasper, who wouldn’t publicly comment if she’s a ferret owner or not. “People who are doing great work can’t be open about it.”
The proposal, if passed, would have made ferrets legal again after Sept. 1, as long as they were sterilized, vaccinated and restrained when outdoors.
Ferrets, legal in the rest of the Empire State, were one type of animal banned in 1999 due to their propensity for "vicious, unprovoked attacks” during the Giuliani administration.
“We appreciate the Board’s concern for the health and safety of New Yorkers in their decision to keep in place the prohibition on ferret ownership in New York City,” the health department said in a statement.
“If that’s their judgment, I’m comfortable with their judgment,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters after the decision. He previously deffered to health officials on ferret matters.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.