Why Are Ferrets Illegal In California3 min read

So, you live in California, and you’re considering becoming a ferret owner? That’s great! Ferrets make great pets. But, there’s one thing you should know: Ferrets are illegal in California

The state constitution of California states that domestic animals are legal. However, the Fish and Game Commission classifies ferrets as wild and that they are not to be determined domestic in California.

Here is the link to the California Departement of Fish and Wildlife

In California, a wild animal is defined as “any animal …which is not
normally domesticated in this state as determined by the fish and game commission. And punishable by up to six months confinement and a
$1000 fine.

Source: https://environs.law.ucdavis.edu/volumes/23/2/articles/herman.pdf

The answer to why ferrets are illegal is rather complicated, and it can be traced back to one of the first laws to protect wild animals in the United States (1933).

You cannot legally keep a ferret in California without a permit, nor can you legally import, transport, or possess them.

Why Are Ferrets Banned In California

The California Fish and Game Code (Section 671) states that it is illegal to “take, possess, import into this state, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export out of this State, bring into this State, or release within this State” any “listed species of wild animals.”

The school of thought behind this is that ferrets that escape may cause a danger to domestic wildlife.

The law goes on to list everything from antelope to gorilla. Ferrets, sadly, fall into the category of wild animals.

Thats why ferrets are illegal to own, even if you have a permit or license from another state. And unfortunately, owning a ferret in California isn’t legal.

While it’s possible that you can find a breeder willing to sell you a baby ferret, the general rule is that you can’t legally own a ferret in California if you are not a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, licensed zookeeper, or a licensed research facility.

States And Citys Where Pet Ferrets Are Illegal to Own

Ferrets have been legal in the US mostly since the mid-1990s and are now the 5th most popular pet in America, with an estimated 2.5 million ferrets in homes across the country.

However, there are two states where ferrets are completely illegal: California and Hawaii.

That means they are legal in the remaining 48 states, but local laws (depending on city or county) can choose to follow their state guidelines or provide a stricter law.

Places where Ferrets Are Illegal


  • New York City
  • Washington, DC
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Columbia, Missouri


  • California
  • Hawaii

Besides the above-mentioned places where ferrets are banned, many states have special regulations for ferrets. Make sure to check with your city and state before getting yourself a ferret.

When Were Ferrets Banned in California

First efforts to make ferrets illegal were made in 1986 by the Fish and Game Commission.

Do vets in California need to report exotic animals?

That’s the question posed by the California State Assembly, which has proposed a bill requiring all veterinarians to report the importation of exotic animals to the state.

The bill’s stated intention is to prevent exotic species from being imported without a permit. Such animals can carry foreign animal diseases that can be transmitted to other animals and humans (read.. take care of ferrets).

For now veterinarians in California are not forced to report exotic animals.

How Many Ferrets Live In California

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife may issues permits for ferrets under certain conditions. However, there is no requirement to register your ferret or inform the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that California is home to roughly 500,000 for the most part illegal ferrets.

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