I recieved a copy of Pet European Ferrets: A Hazard to Public Health,
Small Livestock and Wildlife. It is available from the California Deparment
of Health Services.
Department of Health Services
Veterinary Public Health
P.O. Box 942732
Sacramento, CA 94234-7320
If you love ferrets, this report will REALY piss you off.
Some of the things to be found in it..Its too long to post in whole..
Page -i- Ferret play frequently assumes the form of mock attacks, which may
result in bites to humans. Serious bites may occur, especially if the animal
is surprised or angered. Adults are able to quickly terminate such encounters,
and thereby limit injury. However, infants, who often seem to be preceived by
ferrets as prey, may suffer injury as a result of ferret attacks. Indeed,
ferrets sometimes unleash frenzied, rapid-fire bite and slash attacks on
infants, usually on their heads and throats, and sometimes inflict hundreds of
bites. The animals have been reported to then drink the victim's blood and
eat the shreaded tissues.
Page -15- Ferrets were developed by man from polecats, which have a reputation
for being extremely bloodthirsty, killing far more than they can devour and
indiscriminately attacking any and all animals within range (Johnston 1903).
Page -17- Whereas trained ferrets may exercise restraint in biting adults,
human infants may be regarded as prey to be killed and eaten.
Page -17- We believe that sounds made by human infants are amoung stimuli
that trigger predatory ferret behavior.
Page -18- Upon realization that one's pet ferret is missing, a major
promoter of pet ferrets advises organizing a search of surrounding houses
(Morton and Morton, 1985). Thus, if one owns a ferret, one can expect
difficulties confining the animal and interaction of the animal with neighbors.
Page -22- Twelve cases of rabies in pet ferrets are known to have occurred
in the United States since 1958 (Table 7), ten of them in the last seven years.
Page -23- No rabies vaccine trials have been performed in ferrets to justify
licensing any product for that purpose; thus no rabies vaccine can be guaranteed
to be effective in ferrets.
Page -27- Observations consistent with the notion that ferrets perceive human
infants as prey include the small size and helplessness of the victims, the
anatomical locations of and extensiveness of inflicted wounds, and ferret
ingestion of the tissues of live, human infants. Victim odors, sounds, and
reactions to the initial bites may play a role, as may the taste of blood and
flesh. The smell or taste of blood is said to stimulate savage and
indiscriminate attacks by ferrets (Fennell, 1841)
Page -30- Everitt (1897) stated that lactating ferrets require blood or they
will eat their offspring. Fennell (1841) and Roberts (1977) reported that
ferrets drink the blood of their victims, a practice also attributed to polecats
(Bell, 1837; Johnston 1903).
Page -31- Jesse (1834) wrote: "Some years ago, a poor woman, holding a mangled
infant in her arms, rushed, screaming with agony and fright, into my friend's
house, who is a surgeon, imploring him to save the child's life, who, she said,
had been almost killed by a ferret;
(The rest deleted for reasons of length, but it sounds like science fiction
with the part about the ferrets stomach distended with the infants blood, etc.)
It basicaly is FILLED with myths and misconceptions about ferrets based on
fiction or unproven accounts from 80-150 years ago. The list of Unprovoked
Attacks on Infants and Young Children is filled with cases of parental neglect
and animal cruelty. The so-called rabid ferret in a pet shop wasn't even
tested by the CDC, but by a vet who is biased towards ferrets Diesch-1981
8 of the ferrets were strays, pointing to the posibility that they might not
have been ferrets, but weasels or wild mink in some cases. One of the ferrets
died the next day, pointing to the fact that the ferret wasn't healthy and
may have bitten out of pain or illness, which is not concidered to be an
unprovoked attack..Unless the owner had maybe abused it or killed it through
abuse..A number of the 64 ferret bite cases listed were unspayed or unneutered
ferrets. Their totals for attacks from 1978 to 1987 were 425 cases reported
in California, Oregon and Arizona.. This of course if still far less then the
numbers of dog, cat, etc. bites.
Of the 12 cases of rabies, one in Michigan had a possible error in diagnosis
and was not performed by the CDC. As a matter of fact, only 7 of the cases are
confirmed by CDC.
The back of the report includes the California Fish & Game Code...
The report is dated December 1988.
[Posted in FML issue 1214]