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Are ferrets legal in California?

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Ferrets are goofy, rowdy, and cuddly pets. Keeping ferrets as pets is perfectly acceptable in most states, but are ferrets legal in California?

While escaped pets can sometimes harm local wildlife, ferrets are less likely. They don't do well outdoors and we usually spay them when they're very young.

In this article, we'll discuss California law in depth. We'll have a full discussion on whether pet ferrets should be allowed in California and what the law means for California residents.

Are ferrets illegal in California?

skunk vs ferret
Ferrets are illegal as pets in California.

© Denis Kukareko/Shutterstock.com

In the United States, you can keep ferrets as pets, except in two states, Hawaii and California. California passed a law in 1933 banning pet ferrets.

The law is controversial, with many arguing that ferrets pose no threat to local ecosystems. They believe that those who want pet ferrets should be able to adopt and keep them.

Why are ferrets illegal in California?

The old California law was enforced to protect the local ecosystem.

© Alfredo Gutierrez/Creative Commons

Why are ferrets illegal in California? The main reason California has banned pet ferrets is "because they pose a threat to our native fish and wildlife, agriculture, or public health and safety." Other exotic animals are banned as pets for the same reason.

Ferrets are predators and if one escapes or is released it can pose a threat to native species. This is especially true if ferrets breed and invasive populations grow. It's a real fear — exotic pets have spread local ecosystems in the past. Even outdoor cats were responsible for the extinction of 63 species.

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Proper pet care and responsible rehousing of our pets when needed is critical to keeping animals and ecosystems safe. Most domesticated animals, including ferrets, cannot survive in the wild.

law is controversial

However, this point brings us to the argument against the law: ferrets have not caused a similar problem in any state where they currently live. So, if ferrets aren't causing problems in other states, why are they illegal in California? That's hard to fathom — especially since pet ferrets don't last much longer than a few days in the wild.

Even if a ferret inexplicably survives, most ferrets in the US are neutered or neutered when they are young – too young, in fact, mostly because most of them are sold by ferret factories, They are spayed and neutered early, though to their detriment. their state of health.

However, this brings up another problem. While the laws are outdated and may not take the facts into account, are we going to promote pet ferret ownership in a country where the majority of pet ferrets are factory-produced and destined to have shorter lives and poorer health?

Of course we can facilitate adoption and reputable breeders. Still, reputable breeders are few and far between in the U.S. — and one can guess there are even fewer of them in California, where ferret breeding has been banned for nearly 90 years.

Wouldn't ferret-owning Californians increase rather than decrease the number of ferrets that need rescue in pet stores?

Can you keep a ferret with a license?

A white female ferret sleeps among the leaves with her cubs.
The license allows for rescue and research, but not for them to own pet ferrets.

© iStock.com/slowmotiongli

Are ferrets legal in California with a special permit? Under California law, ferret licenses are not for ownership but for "specific lawful purposes—such as medical research or shipping rescued ferrets out of state." Permit to rescue ferrets in case of emergency and transport them to neighboring countries.

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Unfortunately, ferrets are also available for medical research in California, but the general public cannot keep ferrets as pets.

What are the penalties for owning ferrets in California?

U.S. laws against keeping pets often impose fines on those who break the law.

If you own a ferret in California, you will likely face a fine of $500 to $10,000. You will not be able to keep your ferrets.

However, the law does say that owning a ferret can lead to criminal charges and even jail time. We strongly advise against breaking this law – it's not worth it to you or the ferret!

Are ferrets aggressive?

Ferrets may bite when they play, but they don't tend to be aggressive — at least not more than other pets like dogs and cats. The misconception that ferrets are aggressive may come from their violent bite. However, this happens because most ferrets in the United States come from ferret factories that do not undergo socialization. You have to teach pet ferrets not to bite because they don't know that biting can hurt us. Ferrets have thick fur, and they bite each other pretty hard when they play, and it doesn't hurt.

As carnivores, ferrets have sharp teeth. Ferrets can bite people to the bone – but this bite is more common in ferrets that are scared or genuinely aggressive than in playful ones. Properly trained and cared for ferrets know not to bite. You just have to get through the teething period and train the bite inhibition.

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The good news is that ferrets are much less likely to bite you if you adopt them responsibly through a rescue or reputable breeder. Rescuers, foster care providers, and reputable breeders all train ferrets before adopting them.

Of course, no reputable organization will adopt them since the law prohibits keeping California residents as pets.


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Young ferret (Mustela putorius furo) close up.
Young ferret (Mustela putorius furo) close up.

© AJSTUDIO Photography/Shutterstock.com

about the author

I'm an animal writer for four years with a focus on educational pet content. I wish our furry, feathered and scaly friends the best care! In my free time, I'm usually outside gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.

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