United States: New York mulls end to ferret ban

Ferrets Image copyright Thinkstock

New York's influential Board of Health has signalled that it may be prepared to overturn a long-standing and disputed ban on ferrets in the city.

Despite their long history as loveable household pets, in 1999 former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made it illegal to keep ferrets at home amid concerns about rabies and attacks on children. The measure has aroused passions - in 2002 succeeding mayor Michael Bloomberg had to defend the ban in court.

But health officials have been weighing the pros and cons of repealing the ban, the New York Times reports. Among the pros, ferrets don't bite more often or more severely than other animals of the same size. But on the downside, infants might be vulnerable to ferret-related injuries, an internal document says.

Ferret-lovers say they've been cheered by signs the current mayor Bill de Blasio is interested in animal issues. For example, he's spoken out about "inhumane" horse-drawn carriages in Central Park - one of the city's notable tourist attractions - and has suggested replacing them with electric buggies.

But it's not all good news for small furry animals in New York. The city's health department this week announced a campaign to eliminate rising rat populations in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. "But rats, unlike ferrets", the New York Times says, "do not have a small but vocal band of champions, equipped with Facebook pages and grass-roots campaigns".

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