SACRAMENTO — A bill to allow Californians, like people in 46 other states, keep ferrets as pets has been rejected by the state Assembly.
The vote Thursday was 38-25 for the bill, three votes short of a majority. Assemblyman Jan Goldsmith (R-Poway) said he would try again and agreed to amend his bill to require pet ferrets to be spayed or neutered.
California is one of only four states that do not allow ferrets to be kept as pets. The others are Michigan, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
Ferret groups say the animals are playful and harmless and are so domesticated they cannot survive in the wild if they escape. The groups estimate there are 100,000 to 500,000 ferrets kept illegally in the state, many of them by people who bought them in other states and don't realize they are illegal.
The bill would allow ferrets to be kept as pets as long as they are vaccinated against rabies.
The bill is opposed by the state Fish and Game and the Health Services departments. The former claims the animals can escape, turn wild and endanger native weasels and other wildlife. The latter says ferrets are dangerous animals which can attack infants and bite them in the face.
"The state of California spends tens of thousands of dollars enforcing this prohibition," Goldsmith said.
His bill is supported by a state veterinarian group, which says legalization would make it easier for vets to vaccinate and treat ferrets.
"I think the state of California has better things to do than regulate little animals," said Assemblyman Robert Frazee (R-Carlsbad).
Goldsmith pointed out that ferret groups have contacted the 46 states where the animals are legal and none have reported any problems with escaped ferrets.