Special Report filed by AAF Animal Attack Files Special Report
from The New York Times Online

      Ferret Owners Challenge NYC Ban

December 18, 2000

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 8:09 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ferret lovers converged at a City Council hearing Monday, seeking to overturn the city's ban on ownership of the weasel-like animal.

The Health Department considers the animals wild and dangerous, though the city does little to find them. The city has long forbid ownership of ``exotic'' pets, but the 1999 ban specifically names ferrets and several other animals.

The Humane Society of New York has filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban. Forty-eight states, including New York, allow ferret ownership.

``As far as what I'm hearing, the Health Department needs a little education on ferrets,'' ferret owner Phil Malone said at the hearing. ``The biggest thing mine does is steal. He takes my wallet.''

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he believes ferrets are much more prone to attack small children and carry rabies and that he supports the ban.

The frequency and seriousness of the bites is at the center of the debate. The Health Department tallied 17 ferret bites last year, including a 22-month-old child bitten on the face. This year, there have been 13 reported bites, including of a 2-day-old infant.

Ferret lovers say the animals bite no more frequently than cats or dogs and rarely carry rabies. A. Shelton Crute, a 22-year-old student who recently adopted two ferrets, Isabella and Coyote, said the animals sit on her lap and shoulders.

``Coyote and Isabella are not a threat to public health,'' Crute said. ``They are my family.''

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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