They weigh three pounds on average and are illegal to own in California, yet part of an impassioned, 10-minute discussion on legalization at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The topic? Ferrets, of course.
While climate change, Black History Month and public safety awards also were among the topics discussed at the two-hour meeting, the well-being of tiny weasels might have sparked the most heated comments.
Megan Mitchell, the founder of Angel City Ferret Club, said there’s a large population of ferret owners in Santa Clarita and an online petition has accumulated more than 800 signatures.
“We would like you to add to the agenda a proclamation for support of ferret legalization,” she said, “mainly because we found that we aren’t getting any support at the state level, so we’re turning to our local cities to back us up.”
Ferrets will not be legalized as long as Gov. Jerry Brown is in office, Mitchell said.
“Until he’s out of office, we’re dealing with you guys,” she said to the council members.
Ferrets are already legal in 48 states—California and Hawaii are the holdouts, though Mitchell said the Golden State was against legalization due to bureaucratic red tape.
“Domestic ferrets are also not hazardous to legalize, all of these ideas have been debunked over the past 20 years or so,” she added. “No North American wildlife agency has reported ferrets having a known effect on native species, so that concern is not backed up by any scientific data.”
Ferret owners can be charged with a misdemeanor, Mitchell said.
“Are we having further discussion about the ferrets in Santa Clarita, Ferret City USA?” Mayor Laurene Weste asked of her fellow councilmembers, once public participation was complete.
“That’s a discussion for the council,” City Manager Ken Striplin said.
Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean said she was concerned for children’s safety.
“I have heard and I have seen where ferrets can be a little dangerous because they latch onto you, they don’t let go,” she said. “If there are children in which a ferret will latch onto them, that’s kind of dangerous. I don’t know whether domestic ferrets are different from ferrets that I have seen on TV that have done this kind of thing, but I would sure like to have some information regarding that if there is a danger to children.”
Councilman Cameron Smyth said he was didn’t have objection to ferreting out the truth from the myths; however, the discussion should probably be squirreled away until the state has a new leader in Sacramento.
“I’m not initially anti-ferret,” but since any legislation would be met by a veto, Smyth said he preferred to wait for a new governor was in Sacramento and legislation is introduced.
“No legislator is going to introduce a bill knowing that the governor is going to veto,” he pointed out.
Councilman Bill Miranda disagreed with Smyth.
“If this is a good thing to do, we should do it, whether the governor wants it or not,” he said.
City Manager Ken Striplin warned the City Council that they were beginning to engage in discussion for an item that was not on the agenda, a Brown Act violation. Mayor Laurene Weste agreed with Striplin.
Laura Lee, a Valencia resident, also called for the “decriminalization of ferret ownership” and said as many as 1 million ferrets being kept as pets in California.
“Most people would be too fearful to post a sign,” she said, “most are too fearful to come here today.”