The elder Free-Ride offspring, always a fan of mustelids, has lately taken a particular interest in ferrets.
Given that Casa Free-Ride is located in the great state of California, this interest in ferrets has also spurred an interest in state law. In California, it’s illegal to keep ferrets as pets.
According to the elder Free-Ride offspring, there is much to appreciate about ferrets:
Elder Free-Ride offspring: They’re slinky!
Dr. Free-Ride: OK.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: They’re cute!
Dr. Free-Ride: Sure.
Elder Free-Ride offspring:They’re stinky.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, that I can vouch for.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: But you can “de-scent” them and give them baths!
Dr. Free-Ride: I don’t think I’ll be giving any ferrets baths, thanks.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: They’re the only domesticated mustelid!
Dr. Free-Ride: Really?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Yes, people aren’t raising minks, or martens, or otters as pets … yet.
Dr. Free-Ride: Sheesh, I shudder at the thought of all the people who would run out to buy otters as pets if they could, just on the basis of their cute antics.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: But unless you had otter habitats like at the aquarium, it would probably not be fun for the otters at all.
Dr. Free-Ride: I guess the theory behind ferrets as pets is that their needs can be met in a human household with proper attention and care?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Yep. Except that they’re not legal as pets in California.
Dr. Free-Ride: What do you know about why that is?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Not that much, yet. But I know how to use Wikipedia and Google, so I think I’ll be able to find out more.
Dr. Free-Ride: You’ll have to be careful and evaluate how reliable the sources you discover are on the subject.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Yeah. Sometimes when people really want something a certain way, they don’t look at important reasons why things shouldn’t be that way.
Dr. Free-Ride: What other sources of information do you think you could consult about why it’s illegal to keep ferrets as pets here and whether the law makes sense?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Maybe a zoologist?
Dr. Free-Ride: OK. Possibly some wildlife biologists or ecologists, too. (I may be able to find you a person or two at work.)
Elder Free-Ride offspring: They’re perfectly fine animals, even though some of them have masks.
Dr. Free-Ride: Which ones have masks?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: The black footed ferret has a mask. Also, black feet.
Dr. Free-Ride: Really?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Hence the name.
Dr. Free-Ride: Well played, sprog!
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Their main food is prairie dogs, and they live on the prairie. As prairie dogs are wiped out, so are the black footed ferrets. People are trying to protect them. They have breed in release programs at sites like Shirley Basin.
Dr. Free-Ride: Where’s that?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: On a prairie somewhere. Maybe in Kansas or one of the Dakotas?
Dr. Free-Ride: Interesting. So the black footed ferret is wild. Which kind of ferret is the domesticated one?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: The domestic ferret.
Dr. Free-Ride: Ah. Domestic ferret is domestic. Do you know anything about when they were domesticated?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: It happened a long time ago, I think in the 1800s. People domesticated them to use them for flushing out and hunting game.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm. So, they’re domesticated predators.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: But they can be friends with other pets like dogs, cats, or rats.
Dr. Free-Ride: But you could see why this might create a problem if a pet ferret had run of a neighborhood, or escaped, or was released into the wild by someone who got tired of taking care of a ferret, yes?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Yeah, if they’re released into the wild, they might harm native wildlife.
Dr. Free-Ride: And if I ever succeed in getting hens in the backyard, a ferret might well decide …
Elder Free-Ride offspring: OM NOM NOM NOM!
Dr. Free-Ride: Exactly.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Well, we could keep the ferret inside.
Dr. Free-Ride: OK, you know, I support your learning everything you can about ferrets, and everything you can about the regulations against keeping ferrets as pets in California. Indeed, if the best information you find suggests that the regulations are wrongheaded, I’ll even support your efforts to change these regulations —
Elder Free-Ride offspring: By writing to the governor, and members of the State Senate and Assembly?
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes. But even if the law changes, that does not automatically mean you get to keep a ferret in my house.
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And here’s a typical page from the pro-pet-ferret folks.