All About Ferret Permits

Unlike cats and dogs, ferrets aren’t even large enough to push over garbage cans and scavenge. Domestic ferrets are generally believed to be descended from the European polecat; they were originally used as hunting animals to catch rabbits and rodents. They weren’t supposed to kill the prey, they just chased them out of their holes and the farmers (hunters) killed them. This practice is now illegal in the U.S. and Canada, but it’s still fairly popular in the U.K. and some other places. A "ferret-free zone," or FFZ, is a place where ferrets are banned or illegal.

In some other places, ferret owners are required to have licenses or permits. States, counties, and municipalities outlaw or restrict ferrets for a variety of reasons, pretty much all invalid, but I’d say that the fundamental problem is that many people don’t understand what a pet ferret is. What are some of those invalid reasons, you ask? Well, a common one is that ferrets are seen as wild animals like raccoons or skunks, rather than a domestic species like housecats.

Of course, ferrets have been domesticated for at least 2500 years. Another popular misconception is that ferrets pose a serious rabies danger; in fact, studies have indicated that it’s very hard for a ferret to catch rabies, and when one does, it dies very quickly, so the danger is very small indeed.

Besides, there’s a ferret rabies vaccine which has been shown to be effective. A third common reason for banning ferrets is the idea that escaped pets (nearly all of which are spayed or neutered) will form feral packs and threaten livestock or native wildlife.

There are no confirmed cases of feral ferrets (as opposed to polecats or polecat-ferret crosses, for instance) in the U.S., and a few deliberate attempts to introduce domestic ferrets to the wild have failed miserably, so this, too, is an unfounded fear – even if one could picture a ferret harming a cow or breaking into a commercial poultry farm.

The only states which now ban ferrets are California and Hawaii. In the face of overwhelming evidence, many areas are being persuaded to change their outdated regulations. Most of the misconceptions regarding domestic ferrets probably come from mistaking them for their wild cousins.

It’s very difficult to tell a polecat or a mink from a domestic ferret when all you’ve seen is a flash of fur disappearing into a burrow, and polecats and minks are quite common in the less-developed areas of Europe and North America.

Because of the similar names, domestic ferrets have also been confused with their cousins the North American Black-Footed Ferrets, Mustela nigripes. Black-footed ferrets (BFFs) are wild remote relatives of the domestic ferret. They are an endangered species: the only BFFs known to exist are in zoos or in a breeding program in Wyoming. However, despite similar appearances, the BFF is not very closely related to the domestic ferret.