I don't know if anyone wants to read this, so skip it if you want. Polite
corrections and further info are welcome (for them or for me).
Like many others (I HOPE!) I wrote to <[log in to unmask]> to protest
the particularly nasty inaccuracy they carried on domestic ferrets. I am
sure that others here have info to contribute toward getting them to print
Anyway, this is what I sent to them:
At 12:56 PM -0500 1/10/02, Sukie Crandall wrote:
Oh, my! Peter Stark erred in a rather dramatic fashion when he wrote:
"that the ferocious grizzly bear ranks about the same a mustelids
(weasels, badgers, skunks and the like), which kill an average of four
humans a year, primarily pet ferrets attacking unattended babies".
Actually, the total of four babies killed by domestic ferrets appear to be
four deaths in total for all the records kept throughout the world, and
one of those in Britain comes complete with the addendum that it may have
actually been a wild polecat.
Domestic ferrets have been domesticated since the Ancient Romans used
them -- with Pliny even writing about them, and some earlier Greek
writings indicate that they might have been domesticated then. (Yes, I
know that there are those who like to say that they were Egyptian and
domesticated even earlier, but that appears to be based upon confusion
with a mongoose, which is a viveriid rather than a mustelid despite its
similar appearance caused by the parallel evolution of two burrow-hunter
Per-capita-animal serious bite records are actually available from the
states' public health veterinarians and from some city health departments,
and the numbers of serious bites for the domestic ferret are about 1/200th
those per dog. That makes sense, since their mouths are so small, and
because they have such a long record of domestication. Also, because
there mouths are small, alert parents can quickly respond to a baby's
cries while that may not be possible for a larger animal.
Domestic ferrets have had a rabies vaccine (IMRAB 3) since 1990 which
meets the strict criteria of the USDA, and the CDC did extensive work on
the rabies issue in regard to domestic ferrets which led to them being
found safe enough to be protected by the same rules as dogs and cats in
the "Compendium of Animal Rabies Control" which is available from both the
National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and the American
Veterinary Medical Association.
There is one more important piece of information to consider: according to
a comment from Roger Caras, the late president of the ASPCA, when babies
and toddlers are seriously attacked or killed by domestic animals the
underlying cause is almost always actually neglect and even abuse by the
adult guardians of the animal and even of the child. Yes, attacks by
domestic animals can happen under other conditions, but having read such
reports, the theme of neglect with passed-out guardians on drugs, or
alcohol, or both repeats itself. The fact of the matter is that parents
and guardians have to carefully supervise when babies or toddlers and any
animal are together, as I am sure that most "Outside" readers have done or
are now doing.
Given that there are an estimated 5 to 7 million pet ferrets in the U.S.
I expect that you owe a large number of your readers an apology for this
error, or at least a big "Opps! It was a goof! Sorry!".
I recall someone here who once thought that a attack on a friend's child
(requiring stitches) was unprovoked -- with the attack being by one of
her own ferrets and the "friend" having boarded the ferret long-term.
Instead, on investigation, she found that the ferret had been not only
badly neglected but deprived of needed veterinary care for a very painful
disease that had a tail-end neurological complication (brain infection)
that drove it insane with pain and infection.
[Posted in FML issue 3660]