Why Are Ferrets Illegal In New York? (Explained)

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If you’re a New Yorker, or just thinking to move to the city for work or holidays, you’ve come to the right place to learn about these creatures’ restrictions in the city. I’m here to clear things up.

In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why ferrets are illegal in New York and why they may be banned in other states as well.

Let’s find out!

Are ferrets illegal in New York?

Ferrets are illegal to own as pets in New York City, specifically banned in the city since 1999 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, ferrets are legal in the rest of New York state. The ban in NYC was due to concerns about rabies and the perception of ferrets as potentially dangerous wild animals.

It is important to note that laws and regulations regarding exotic pets can vary between states and even within different areas of a state, so it is advisable to check with local authorities for the most up-to-date information on pet ownership regulations.

Why are ferrets illegal in New York?

Ferrets are illegal in New York due to concerns about them becoming feral, as they could harm local wildlife and crops. The state considers them to be a potential threat to the environment if released or escaped. This is why ferrets are banned as pets in New York.

The DEC argued that ferrets posed a threat to native wildlife, specifically because they could easily escape from captivity and establish feral populations.

The DEC’s proposal was met with strong opposition from ferret enthusiasts, who argued that there was no evidence that ferrets posed any threat to native wildlife.

Since then, there have been a few attempts to repeal the ferret ban, but so far all of them have been unsuccessful.

So for now, it looks like the ferret ban in New York is here to stay. If you’re a ferret lover and you live in New York, your only option is to move to another state where ferrets are legal.

Public concerns

Ferrets are known to prey on small animals such as birds, and mice, and their digging habits can damage crops and native plants.

They have also been known to carry diseases that can be dangerous to humans and other animals. In response to the threat posed by ferrets, New York, and other states have enacted laws banning their ownership or importation.

While some ferret advocates argue that the animals pose no greater threat than other common pets, the consensus is that it is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting delicate ecosystems.

Invasive species

One of the primary reasons that ferrets are illegal in New York is because they are considered to be an invasive species. This means that they are not native to the area and can cause harm to the local ecosystem.

Ferrets have been known to prey on small animals, which can disrupt the food chain and lead to a decline in populations of native species.

If you want to know if ferrets can actually kill mice or rats read this article, where I dive deep from the cost of feeding a ferret with mice to what to do if your ferret refuses to eat it and much more.

However, the likelihood that a domesticated ferret survives in the wild is very low. In most cases, a ferret that is released into the wild will not survive for more than a few days.

The primary concern is that if enough ferrets are released/ escaped by mistake, they could establish a breeding population and begin to cause serious damage to local ecosystems.

Ferrets have been used as companions as a major source to get rid of rodents in many parts of the world for many centuries, this makes them a threat to ‘native’ animal populations that are not used to having such predators around.

If you want to learn more about ferret’s diets I encourage you to check out my recent article on whether or now ferrets can eat dog food.

Bad reputation

Ferrets have earned a bad reputation because of their similarity with weasels. Weasels are known to be aggressive and destructive, so some people assume that ferrets must be the same.

However, ferrets are actually very gentle creatures that can make great pets. The problem is that because of their bad reputation, many states have enacted laws banning their ownership.

What if you get caught with a ferret in New York?

If you have a ferret in New York, you need to be aware of the state’s ferret laws. Ferrets are not currently legal to own as pets in New York City, and there are strict penalties for those who get caught. If you’re caught with a ferret in NYC, you could be fined up to $1,000. So it’s definitely not worth the risk!

Additionally, your ferret will likely be confiscated and sent to a shelter.

However, the only way for a ferret to be confiscated is if it’s found during an inspection or if someone reports you for having one.

Despite the restriction, there is a small exception.

Outside of NYC, ownership of ferrets is technically allowed, but there are still some restrictions. Ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies and have a certificate of veterinary inspection.

What can you do to help legalize your ferret?

There are a number of things you can do to help legalize ferrets in New York. One is to join the fight by becoming a member of the Ferret Friendly Club.

This group is dedicated to changing the law in New York so that ferrets can be legally owned as pets. Another way to help is to sign a petition.

Other states where ferrets are illegal

There are only a handful of States or Cities in which ferrets are illegal to own apart from New York, and these are:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Washington D.C.

Hawaii and New York are three of them. Each state has its own reasons for banning ferrets.


In California, the law is actually pretty clear. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it is illegal to import ferrets into the state, possess them without a permit, or sell them. The only way to get a permit is to work for a research or educational institution or be part of a federally funded program.

The reasons behind this law are twofold.

  • First, ferrets are seen as potential carriers of rabies
  • The second reason is that California officials are worried about the potential impact ferrets could have on the state’s ecosystem.

Ferrets are non-native animals, and there’s a fear that they could compete with native species for food or spread disease.


Similarly, Hawaii has banned ferrets because of their potential to carry rabies. There’s also a concern that ferrets could escape and establish populations in the wild, where they could threaten native wildlife.

Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., it’s actually illegal to import, sell, or give away ferrets as pets. The only way to own a ferret is to have a permit for “educational, exhibition, or scientific purposes.”

The reasons for the ban are similar to those in other states: officials are concerned about the potential for rabies and the impact ferrets could have on the local ecosystem.


So, whether you live in New York or one of the other states where ferrets are illegal, you need to be aware of the laws before you consider owning one. Ferrets can make great pets, but it’s not worth risking a fine or having your pet confiscated. If you’re determined to own a ferret, you may need to move to a state where they’re legal.

Ferrets may be illegal in New York, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their defenders. There are many people who think the ban on ferrets is outdated and unnecessary, cross your fingers and hope that the ban is lifted soon.

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