By Miriam Raftery
July 18, 2017 (La Mesa) -- Not long ago, La Mesa overturned a Prohibition-Era ban on wine making. Now LegalizeFerrets.org, a La Mesa-based group that claims to have 3,000 members, is asking La Mesa’s City Council to end another long-time ban by declaring sanctuary city status for pet ferrets.
Who knew that La Mesa was a hotbed of underground ferret activity?
Now, furtive ferret owners may have found a champion in Councilwoman Kristine Alessio, who raises Bengal cats, has served as Legislative Director for The International Cat Association and as a volunteer for the City's Pet Therapy Program.
Ferret ownership is already legal in 48 states, but not California or Hawaii. Advocates of ending ferret prohibition in California believe a sanctuary city designation in La Mesa would be a symbolic victory that could help
On June 8, Pat Wright of LegalizeFerrets.org in La Mesa sent a letter to all Council members to declare La Mesa a sanctuary city for ferrets in hopes of helping to change what Wright views as an “unjust” state law. The group held a meeting July 15 attended by Council members Bill Baber, also a pet owner, and Alessio, to introduce them to the joys of frolicking ferrets.
“City Councilwoman Kristine Alessio delighted us at yesterday's party promising to help legalize ferrets,” reads the latest post on the Legalize Ferrets Facebook page. “She has been discussing the issue with Assemblymen Todd Gloria and Randy Voepel, hoping to convince either or both to introduce ferret legalization legislation, but without much luck. Even though ferret legalization seems like a no-brainer, it just isn't seen as a serious issue. But the effort to make La Mesa a Ferret Sanctuary City builds steam. “
Alesso told KPBS that she agrees ferrets are domesticated and make good pets, playing with toys and using a litter box. She observed with a chuckle,”We have a whole ferret-loving community that I was unaware of…that’s what you do when you’re elected. You represent the interests of your constituents.”
The California Fish and Game Commission has claimed ferrets are “wild animals” and voiced concerns that they could be released into the wild, competing with native wildlife. Wright counters by saying that this has not occurred in other states where ferrets are allowed.
The Commission has refused two petitions, one asking that ferrets be removed from the list of banned pet species, and the other asking that permits be issued for neutered males, as was done prior to the 1985 ban on ferret ownership.
To date, no legislator has been willing to introduce a ferret legalization bill in the state Legislature, after an earlier ferret legalization bill was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who, ironically, once co-starred with a ferret in the movie “Kindergarten Cop.”
The key concern raised by state officials is that an environmental impact report would be needed at a cost of up to $600,000. The concern that environmentalists could file a lawsuit against the state is another worry.
So for now, ferret owners in California are left in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation—a situation that Wright, the founder of Ferrets Anonymous, hopes to change—starting in La Mesa.