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Where are ferrets legal?

Even though ferrets are domesticated 2500 years ago, people are still considering them half-wild. That is why there are states and countries in which there is a ferret ban policy. There are states that say you have to have a permission (like for exotic animals), that you have to meet some requirements before getting one or you can’t have one at all. There aren’t that many countries where they aren’t legal. Reasons ferrets are illegal are mostly outdated and can’t really be interpreted today. Some of that laws are almost 100 years old!

Every year this lists of where are ferrets legal can change. If you are considering getting a ferret, investigate law and order of your state and city. (especially in the USA because you’ll never know what states are ferrets legal in). There are some differences between state and city laws. If you are in a state where they are legal, it doesn’t have to mean there aren’t requirements for ferrets. This can be really tricky.

3 most common reasons why there is ferret ban policy are:

  • if ferret runaways it can make a feral colony and ruin nature
  • ferrets aren’t domesticated and they can carry rabies
  • ferrets are aggressive and they can attack people and hurt them

Think about that and you will see if those reasons are true or not.

So, what states are ferrets legal in? Or, even better question, in which ferrets are unfortunately illegal?



legalize ferrets CALIFORNIA – In California, you can’t sell, import, transport or keep a ferret as a pet unless you have the permit from California Department of Fish and Game (means they are still treated as exotic/wild animals) California state says that ferrets can carry rabies. Since they aren’t fully domesticated animals there isn’t any vaccine against rabies for ferrets. There are only vaccines that are for cats and dogs. Another reason to make ferret ban policy is that ferrets can establish feral colonies and disturb the natural balance of flora and fauna. Ferrets really can’t survive on their own in the wild so that is really a long shot. Also, most ferrets are spayed and neutered so they can’t breed.

HAWAII – Hawaii is the only state that is officially rabies-free and they want to stay that way. I know that is the reason Hawaii isn’t one of the states where ferrets are legal, but I don’t know what is the situation with other animals? They have extremely strict quarantine laws and if you are caught with a ferret, the penalty is huge. But, if you have a ferret you can turn him over without any penalty. So, one of the reasons is because ferrets can carry rabies and another is the same as California’s. If they escape they can make a feral colony and disturb nature in Hawaii. The reason why this is bothering me is that almost every ferret is neutered or spayed (unless you are breeding them) and they can’t make babies hence they can’t make a colony anywhere. If they aren’t neutered, they can have very complicated pregnancies.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – Washington DC is another place where ferrets aren’t welcome. Legal pets for Washington DC (pets) are cats, dogs, rabbits, domesticated rodents, fish, turtles, non-poisonous snakes, caged birds and racing pigeons. As you can see, no ferrets. The reasons are the same as always, but the law isn’t so strict there. You can have a ferret here, with the permit of the District of Columbia Health Department. So, it isn’t impossible, but it is complicated. I know that ferrets look too much like weasels and people immediately assume they will bite. If there were some incidents you will see that in almost every incident the pet (in this case ferret) was malnourished or abused.

NEW YORK CITY – Ferrets are legal in New York state but in 1999 ferrets were banned in NYC by  New York City Department of Health. Ferrets are misunderstood animals because they are still considered wild. They are banned because they are unpredictable, vicious and are prone to attack humans for no reason. Also, this one is really interesting: they can escape in holes in the wall of the building, entering someone’s apartment and hurt them. It’s like their only mission is to hurt humans! As you can see the only reasons why there is a ferret ban list are outdated and in the lack of better word, ignorance. There was a hearing to remove ferrets from that list and it came many experts for animals, exotic pets, Humane Society but they couldn’t remove ferrets from that list.

egal ferrets map


NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand is probably the only place in the world which can ban ferrets due to regular reasons. It all began a couple of hundred years ago, around 1800 when people imported rabbits to New Zealand. Since rabbits didn’t have any natural enemy on that ground they started to breed really fast. About 20 years later, ferrets were introduced to New Zealand to control rabbits. The climate in New Zealand is great for ferrets and they don’t have a natural enemy there (like rabbits). So, ferrets made feral colonies in New Zealand (that is the only place in the world where you can find wild ferrets). Ferrets started to feed themselves on birds from that area and they indirectly influenced in nature by hunting those birds. People just came and released a huge number of ferrets to hunt wild rabbits without any control. Since that happened there, everyone is afraid that it will happen again. But that happened a few centuries ago and today ferrets are kept as pets, not as hunters so that is a difference. Today, New Zealand made ferrets legal, but it is illegal to sell, buy, or breed ferrets. Meaning, if you have a ferret, he is legal, but you can’t get another one.

QUEENSLAND – ferrets are illegal in Queensland due to the similar reasons like in New Zealand. The difference from New Zealand to Australia is that Australia has the hot climate which isn’t that good for ferrets and there are predators that can feed on ferrets like foxes and dingos. Australia has problems with feral cats and dogs and there are feral ferret colonies in New Zealand (which is near them) so they are afraid which makes ferret enthusiasts angry because there is no reason for banning ferrets.

NORTHERN TERRITORY – Just like in Queensland, ferrets are completely banned in Northern Territory. The climate in Northern Territory is better than in Queensland but still, it is a long shot for ferrets to make a feral colony there. Interesting thing is that they don’t think that ferrets are aggressive or that they will bite humans. That isn’t the reason for the ban, but they are more concerned about nature around them.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA – ferrets aren’t legal there, but you have to prove that your pet is a ferret and not some close relative. Ferrets and only ferrets are legal but other close relatives of ferrets aren’t welcome.

VICOTRIA – ferrets are legal in Victoria, but you have to meet some requirements. For example, you have to neuter or spay your ferret. Also, you can’t have more than XY ferrets in the household. There isn’t the same number in every city. For example, in Mildura Council, one can keep only 4 ferrets on property under 0.5 hectares.

NEW SOUTH WALES – similar story is in New South Wales. In Sydney, for example, one household can only have 2 ferrets and intact males must be kept outside during spring and summer months.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY – ferret are legal there, but when you get a ferret you have to register it and get a license and you have to respect Animal Welfare Code of Practice to meet all requirements.


PORTUGAL –  the only country in Europe where ferrets are illegal is Portugal. If you own a ferret you can be arrested. They don’t actively search people with ferrets, but it is still a problem. You can’t walk your pet, you can’t go to the vet… The only reason why you can’t have ferret is that they are forbidden to use them for hunting. There isn’t anything in the law about ferrets as pets, that isn’t even the option. Another reason is one of the most common, if they run away, they will breed with polecat and ruin natural balance of flora and fauna. Even though ferrets aren’t legal there, people are fighting to make them legal every year and this year they might do something.


Africa was very unclear, I couldn’t find any information about ferrets in Africa, except South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA – ferrets aren’t illegal in South Africa, but you have to meet some requirements and permits before getting one. Ferrets are classified as a highly invasive species according to the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act5 10 of 2004; Alien and invasive species regulations (NEMBA).


When it comes to Asia I know that ferrets are very popular in Japan and Taiwan but I can’t find any information about other countries.

legal ferrets

If you have any information about ferrets and their legalization in Africa or Asia please let me know in the comments below or on the email: support@friendlyferret.com because I would love to have an article about the legalization of ferrets which can apply to the entire world. Also, if your country has changed status on ferret’s legalization or I haven’t mentioned it, please contact me so I can make it right.

The list is updated on 20/12/2016 it will be updated with every new information.

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Comment (1)

  1. Ileana November 14, 2017 at 8:28 am Reply

    Where in South Africa can you go take out a permit to own a ferret?

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