California Ferret Owners
We get a lot of emails from out-of-staters who are planning to move to California, but are worried and don’t know what to expect upon arrival with their fuzzies. To help clarify and put people’s minds at ease, we’ve put together these helpful tips and advice.
Q: Are ferrets really still illegal in CA?
A: The long and short of it is — yes, ferrets are very much still illegal here, but there are also estimated to be 250k+ pet ferrets in the state, so people absolutely do have them. It’s all about keeping a low profile, and being smart.
- You CANNOT fly in with ferrets (this one seems pretty obvious, but just in case)
- You’ll need to drive in with them, but be aware that most entries into CA have guarded checkpoints. They are primarily looking for out-of-state vegetation (fruits, veggies, plants, etc), but if they do notice a ferret in your car, it will not be good. There are some areas that have no checkpoints at all, so if possible, target those. FerretsAnonymous has a checkpoint map, but we can’t vouch for how up-to-date it is.
- Even if you do have to come in through a checkpoint, all is not lost.
- MOST of the time they’ll just wave you in without stopping you if you have CA plates, so if possible, register your car and get CA plates before bringing any ferrets in. That helps, but definitely not required
- Most checkpoints are unmanned on holiday weekends, so if you can come through then, luck may be on your side
- If all else fails, figure out a way to hide the ferrets in the car in a carrier/cage, and cover them up. Don’t have anything that looks like a cooler with food around, since again, they mostly just care about you bringing in foods/plants. They RARELY actually go through your vehicle, and most times just take a peek inside, make sure it all looks groovy, and wave you through.
Dealing with Authorities
- If you do get caught with ferrets at the border, I’d suggest playing dumb. You can easily get away with the old story of “you had no idea they were illegal” and don’t let them take the ferrets, just turn the car around and find another route in.
- If you get caught later on, there is supposedly a SLIGHT benefit to having them neutered & records of rabies shots. The old story goes that if Fish & Wildlife confiscate your ferret, and you have records of this, then they are willing to “transport the ferrets out of state to a new home of your choosing” rather than euthanize. If you don’t have those records, it’s unknown what they’ll do. I think they got enough flack the past few years that they rarely euthanize anymore.
- It also really depends on WHO you encounter. Some cops, or Animal Control, will look the other way and nothing will happen. Some will confiscate or call Fish & Wildlife. Honestly many people, even authorities, don’t even KNOW that ferrets are illegal, so nothing happens.
- Please be careful careful about who you talk to about your ferrets. People can turn on you on a dime, and if you encounter someone who has a grudge, all they have to do is call the police, and that’s it. 99.99% of the time this doesn’t happen, but just be cautious when dealing with “non ferret people”.
- If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy a house and not deal with a landlord, nothing to worry about. But if you’re like the rest of us schmoes, you’ll need to navigate that one carefully.
- Medium/large apartment complexes are an easy one; as long as they accept animals in general, then you tell everyone you have guinea pigs. Guinea pigs work best since they aren’t interesting enough for people to want to meet them, but they are also similarly sized and caged, so if you’re walking around with a carrier, or a maintenance person comes in and sees a cage in your place, it’s not weird.
- If you HAPPEN to find a landlord that you SUPER super trust or have known a while, then you’re probably fine, but we recommend you play it safe.
- It is 100% LEGAL to get your ferrets treated at a Veterinary Clinic in CA, so NO worries there. There was a law passed many years ago that made it safe & legal to get them treated. So basically it’s illegal when you’re driving over to the Vet, legal while you’re there, and illegal again when you’re driving them home 🙂
- It’s important to really make sure the Vet you select is qualified to treat ferrets and actively treats others. Many Vets will claim they can treat them, but don’t really know enough about them for proper care.
These is just our personal advice based on experience. We tend to be an overly-cautious bunch, and wouldn’t want to risk anything for our babies, so take this advice for what it’s worth. Honestly in general it’s mostly totally fine to have ferrets here, but it’s important to be cautious. Most people will either look the other way, or not even realize that they are illegal. But stories do still surface every now and again about someone getting “caught” with one. As long as you’re careful, you’re fine.