The following letter from HSUS president Paul G. Irwin dated June 19 is being
sent out, apparently, to many people and organizations, including L.I.F.E.,
that wrote to express their dismay at Rachel Lamb's anti-ferret tirade on CBS
This Morning. (I received a bootleg fax of it today from a sympathizer at
The fact that it is a form letter ("Dear Friend") is disappointing, though
perhaps indicative that HSUS received a fair volume of mail on the subject.
In substance, however, it is in my view totally unsatisfactory: Unless
things change, the HSUS should be viewed as *rabidly* antiferret.
It would be a good and useful thing if clubs and shelters that have positive
relations with local HSUS shelters would get THEM to write to Irwin
protesting the national organization's arrogant and hypocritical policy. And
I hope that everyone receiving one of these Dear Friend letters will write
back to tell Irwin what we think of his position, once they get it in the
mail. Anyway, here's the text:
June 19, 1995
Thank you for writing The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
regarding ferrets. We appreciate your taking the time to voice your opinions.
Because of our concerns for ferrets, we do not believe they should be
recommended as companion animals for the general public. As our enclosed
policy statement on ferret ownership states, this is not to say that ferrets
cannot be kept humanely in a domestic environment; only that it takes a
special person to meet their needs.
The HSUS is not anti-ferret. As an animal protection organization, our
policies are based on careful and thoughtful consideration of facts, ethics,
and scientific research and opinion. We remain open to reviewing our
policies in light of new information and data. In fact, we last revised our
position statement on ferrets in October 1992, although our specific
recommendation that ferrets should not generally be kept as pets is not new
to the HSUS.
In summary, The HSUS cares about ferrets and responsible ferret owners in
this country. We do not believe that promoting ferrets as companion animals
protects ferrets. On the contrary, The HSUS thinks that the promotion of
ferret ownership only exploits the animal. Our position is intended to
protect ferrets from meeting many of the same fates that have befallen dogs
and cats--overpopulation, neglect, and active or unintended cruelty. In
fact, we strongly believe that responsible ferret caretakers, who know
firsthand the challenges of caring for ferrets, should recognize that
widespread promotion of the ferret will surely result in increased animal
neglect and cruelty to ferrets.
When state legislation is introduced to legalize ferret ownership, as it was
in California, and The HSUS's opinion on ferret ownership is queried, we do
not and will not hesitate to state it. That said, The HSUS currently does
not anticipate actively campaigning for the repeal of state laws that
legalize ferret ownership as companion animals. We will, however, continue
to state our views when asked and will continue to lend our support or
opposition to legislative initiatives that may include language pertaining to
the keeping of ferrets as pets.
Finally, our policy certainly does not rule out communication with ferret
owners and ferret organizations, many of which promote responsible and humane
ferret care. In fact, a number of ferret-related organizations have been
welcomed and had exhibits at our Animal Care Expos where they have shared
information with animal shelter employees about the humane care and handling
Thank you again for contacting The HSUS and for your concern and compassion
Paul G. Irwin
[Posted in FML issue 1231]