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Ferrets Anonymous meets in secret to discuss the illegal pets

March 21, 2009 | 12:51 pm

Ferret The members of a secret(ish) society called Ferrets Anonymous had a special guest at a recent meeting, which was held at an IHOP restaurant in Laguna Niguel: writer Gendy Alimurung of the L.A. Weekly.  Alimurung describes the clandestine event:

"You have to be careful who you invite over to your house, because what if your neighbor gets mad at you and turns you in?" says a woman named Anita H., who is known as the Duck Lady because she drives to work with her duck in a laundry hamper in the front seat. This is something she could never do with her ferrets, at least not in California or Hawaii, the only two states where the animals are banned.

"Exactly," seconds Lance M., the organization's president. "What's so special about California anyway? Do you see any devastation in California? No. Just the bedroom in the morning." It is President M.'s first term and already he is revolutionizing the way Ferrets Anonymous does business, what with the redesigned logo and the pewter keychains, which he now hands out. "They love shiny things," says Lance. Whether he's referring to the humans or their ferrets is unclear.

Conversation hops back and forth between two tracks. Track one: People are smitten by their ferrets. People whip out their cellphones to scroll through snapshots of little Koko or Sparky or Riata. They flip through copies of the newsletter called Paw Print, perusing calls for submissions to its photo contest — categories include Sleepy Furkids, Soupie Faces, Best Kisser, Ferret Disguises and Best Interaction With Toys — and lecture announcements. At the upcoming regional meet, one Dr. Freddie-Ann Hoffman will be speaking on "The Fur Beneath Us, a Shared American Ferret Experience."

In the community, you are either a proud "ferrent" (ferret parent) or on the verge of becoming one.

One Ferrets Anonymous member estimates that California is home to hundreds of thousands of illegal ferrets.  Among the reasons ferrets haven't been legalized in the state, Alimurung says, is the Catch-22 that ferret owners can't actively lobby for legalization without tipping off wildlife officials to "the contraband waiting in their living room."

A website called LegalizeFerrets says its email list has grown to nearly 4,000 members.  Our colleague Tony Perry reported last month that the group's leader, Pat Wright, says there's a connection between California's budget woes and its government's refusal to legalize ferret ownership.  "These two issues -- the state budget and the ban on domestic ferrets -- are twin symptoms of the rampant fiscal management and top-down bad decision-making that has been going on in California for decades," Wright said.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

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