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Are Ferrets Legal in New York? 2023 Guide

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

cute ferret lying on the bed

Ferrets are fun and affectionate pets that many people choose to adopt because they’re lower maintenance than dogs and cats. However, before you decide to bring home a ferret, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws because ferrets are banned in some states. In the case of New York, ferrets are illegal in New York City, but they’re legal in the rest of New York State. Here’s the updated information on ferrets and keeping them as pets in New York.


Why Are Ferrets Illegal in New York City?

Ferrets were originally banned in 1999 due to rabies concerns. Ferrets can be carriers of rabies, and they have the potential to bite children and spread the virus. Since then, the rabies vaccine for ferrets has improved and received USDA approval

However, New York City has yet to lift the ban on keeping ferrets as pets. Other animals belonging to the weasel family are also illegal to keep as pets in New York City. This includes minks, badgers, wolverines, skunks, and mongooses. 

Not all New York City residents agree with the ban on ferrets, and the opinion of ferrets is a close split. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in 2014 saw that 39% of participants are in favor of keeping ferrets as pets, while 42% of participants are in favor of continuing the ban on ferrets. 19% of participants didn’t know or have an opinion.1

In 2015, the New York City Board of Health made a motion to lift the ban on ferrets. However, the motion didn’t pass, and no other significant motions have been made to lift the ban since then. Many ferret fanciers find the ban unfair because they believe that it’s based on outdated information.

ferret resting in his cage
Image Credit: justart7, Shutterstock

What Small Mammals Are Legal in New York City?

Not all small mammals are banned in New York City. Most small mammals that are generally kept as pets are legal in New York City. This includes gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and hamsters. New York City does have stricter laws for exotic small mammals. Both hedgehogs and sugar gliders are currently banned. 

What Small Mammals Are Legal in New York State?

New York State as a whole allows a broader range of small animals to be kept as pets. Along with ferrets, hedgehogs and sugar gliders are both allowed in New York State. Just keep in mind that each municipality may have its own set of rules and regulations for pets. Some areas may also place a limit on how many types of pets you can keep in one household. So, if you plan to move to a new area, make sure to check its pet laws to see which animals you are allowed to keep as pets.

Are There Any Other States Where Ferrets Are Illegal?

Most states allow ferrets as pets. However, there are two states that have a statewide ban on ferrets. These two states are California and Hawaii. California bans ferrets and several other small mammals as pets because they can be a threat to the state’s natural wildlife. 

Hawaii also bans ferrets because of environmental safety reasons. The state has unique wildlife and works diligently to protect its biodiversity. It’s also the only rabies-free state in the US. So, it’s extra vigilant with the animals that can enter its borders. Hawaii has strict policies for dogs and cats that are trying to enter, and your pet must receive the proper vaccines before being approved to enter.  You’ll also have to complete travel paperwork that proves your pet’s vaccines are up to date and that your pet is rabies-free.

ferret sitting on a windowsill
Image Credit: Fayzulin Serg, Shutterstock



Ferrets are currently legal in New York State, but they’re illegal in New York City. They were initially banned due to rabies concerns. It’s worth noting that improvements have been made to rabies vaccines, and the risk of contracting rabies from ferrets has lowered. However, even with these improvements, ferrets continue to remain banned in New York City, and it’s unclear if this ban will ever be lifted. 

Featured Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

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