Ferrets Weasel Their Way Onto House Pet List
By Carolyn Moreau, Courant Staff Reporter. Reprinted from Friday, March 13, 1998 edition of The Hartford Courant
Ferrets need no longer slink around as second-class pets. The furry critters have weaseled their way into being classified with domestic animals for purposes of rabies control — a status hitherto reserved for dogs, cats and livestock. It’s not just a ferret’s honor that is at stake here. The recent ruling by the state veterinarian to treat biting ferrets like dogs or cats is the difference between life and death for these fur-clad Slinkies. Two weeks quarantine is the worst that is likely to happen to a biting ferret now. Previously, offending ferrets would lose their heads so their brain tissue could be tested for rabies.
For George Cormack, whose ferret Cody often accompanies him to concerts, antique car shows and fast-food restaurants, the ruling last month came as a great relief. Cormack, of Newington, said he will no longer fear that a slip of the tooth could become a death sentence for Cody. Such a thing did happen in Michigan last year, where ferret ownership is legal, but they are not considered domestic pets. A ferret named Kodo, who had been vaccinated against rabies, was euthanized and beheaded by county animal officials after he bit someone’s hand during an exhibition at a mall. Ferret fanciers in Connecticut have long lived in fear that their pets could meet the same fate should they ever, like Kodo, take an indiscreet nibble.
The change in the state Department of Agriculture’s rabies rules was possible because of new information on how the disease affects ferrets, which are cousins of the weasel. Recent studies show that if a biting ferret is able to transmit rabies in its saliva, it will also be showing clinical symptoms of the disease, said Acting State Veterinarian Bruce Sherman.
It is legal to own ferrets in every state except Hawaii and California where a ferret called Rocky recently became a martyr to the free-the-ferrets cause. Rocky was given a lethal injection by animal control officials in San Diego after he bit the finger of a television cameraman at a pro-ferrets rally in January.