SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's ferret owners are tired of being criminals.
They live in the only U.S. state besides Hawaii that bans residents from keeping ferrets as pets, forcing an untold number of Californians to keep their beloved weasels hidden from the public.
But these renegade ferret lovers have no plans to abandon their long, furry friends. Instead, they're ramping up their campaign to persuade lawmakers, wildlife regulators and the public that it's time to overturn a ban that's been in place for nearly 80 years.
"There is no reason the ownership of the domesticated ferret should be illegal in California," Pat Wright, who heads the Legalize Ferrets campaign, told the California Fish and Game Commission in February. "These guys are part of our family. The pet-human bond is a strong one, and you're stepping on it."
State wildlife regulators say escaped or discarded ferrets could establish feral populations and threaten native wildlife, such as nesting birds, rabbits and squirrels.