The Iguana Den




NY Post Article on NYC Exotic Pet Ban


New York Post June 30, 1999

A pet-loving City Council member has vowed a full-fledged ferret fight after the city Board of Health voted yesterday to ban the weasel-like pets - along with hippos, giraffes and hundreds of other wild animals.

Council member Kathryn Freed (D-Manhattan) slammed the unanimous vote as "ignorant," and proposed a law to prevent the estimated thousands of ferret owners in the city from becoming instant criminals.

"These commissioners are so appallingly ignorant of animals," Freed said on the sidewalk outside the Health Department's Worth Street headquarters, with a ferret named Ginger inches away.

"Ferrets have been domesticated for thousands of years."

Freed said ferrets deserve the same classification as dogs and cats, a position supported by the ASPCA, the Animal Medical Center and the Humane Society of New York.

Council Speaker Peter Vallone expressed initial support.

"If the evidence shows that ferrets are friendly, we'll make them legal," he said through spokeswoman Carolyn Daly. "We understand the difference between a hippopotamus and a ferret."

But Board of Health chairman Neal Cohen defended the vote.

"Ferrets are known for their unpredictable behavior, and they are prone to vicious, unprovoked attacks on humans," Cohen said in a written statement.

Health Department spokesman John Gadd maintained that ferrets, like all "wild" animals, have always been illegal as pets - but yesterday's vote clarified that ban by specifically naming the animals that are considered "wild" under city law.

That list now includes a veritable Noah's ark of animals, some obscure, some widely known, but few suitable for apartment living: hyenas, dingoes, jackals, aardwolves, cheetahs, panthers, gorillas, "front-fanged venomous snakes," giraffes, hippopotamuses, whales, elephants, lions, tigers and bears.

Common iguanas, another widely owned pet, are also included on the banned list.

Ferret owners bristled at having their pets included on such a list.

"There is no scientific basis for calling ferrets 'wild,'" said Gary Kaskel of the New York City Friends of Ferrets, who brought Ginger to the board vote but was not allowed to bring her inside.

Kaskel cited the department's own statistics showing only three recorded ferret bites in 1998, compared to nearly 8,000 dog and cat bites.

"This board is a kangaroo court," Kaskel added, inadvertently naming yet another pet declared illegal.

Although Gadd said there were no plans for stepped-up enforcement, yesterday's vote had ferret owners concerned.

"The city has a bad track record of harassing the public," said David Gutharz of the New York Ferret's Rights Advocacy. "Look at street vendors, cab drivers and adult-business owners."



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