Capitol Alert

Ferret owners petition California to legalize their pets

A ferret plays in a plastic toy at the home of an owner who did not want to be identified.
A ferret plays in a plastic toy at the home of an owner who did not want to be identified. The Sacramento Bee file

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Will Californians finally be able to declare, loud and proud, that they are ferret owners?

The California Fish and Game Commission, during its bimonthly meeting today in Van Nuys, is considering a petition to permit ferrets that have been neutered and vaccinated for rabies as pets.

California is one of two states with a complete prohibition on domesticated ferrets. In 1933, state officials concerned that they posed a threat to native species declared them “wild animals,” thereby restricting their ownership under state law. But advocates argue the slinky species is simply misunderstood and have pushed for nearly three decades to reverse the ban.

They got closest in 2004, when a bill made it all the way to desk of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed it. Since then, offers from lawmakers to carry new legislation have dried up, and an effort to take the question to the ballot last year went nowhere.

So Pat Wright, the indefatigable leader of California’s pro-ferret movement, turned to the Fish and Game Commission, which before 1985 had occasionally issued permits for neutered male ferrets as an exemption to the ban.

Though the commission would not reverse the “wild animals” classification, Wright submitted a petition requesting that it again permit ferrets under certain circumstances.

“Ferrets are already in California in large numbers and this is an issue that won’t go away,” he wrote. “This would allow dedicated ferret owners to come out of the closet.”

It’s still a longshot. Staff recommended the petition be denied, noting that the commission “has previously indicated that it will not authorize wild animals to be possessed as pets.”

But perhaps Wright has found a new ally in Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, who sent a letter of support to the commission: “The responsible ferret community in California deserves a respite from the fear of having their pets seized and destroyed.”

WORTH REPEATING: “This isn't like changing your nail polish.” - Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, during a hearing on SB 179, which would create a nonbinary gender identity on state documents

FEEL BETTER: One of the most drastic changes proposed in the Legislature this session is SB 562, which seeks to establish a universal, government-run health care system in California. The bill is a major priority for progressives, but faces massive obstacles, including its steep price tag and tremendous opposition from business groups. Ahead of its first hearing in the Senate Health Committee, 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol, supporters will rally for a policy that they argue would save consumers from out-of-control health care costs. Democratic Sens. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Toni Atkins of San Diego, who jointly authored SB 562, and leaders from the sponsoring California Nurses Association are among those scheduled to speak, 10:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center, before marching to the Capitol at 12:15 p.m.

SAVINGS ACCOUNT: California is moving to close the last of its state-run “developmental centers” for the severely disabled and transfer those patients to community facilities. It’s expected to save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in care per person – money that Assembly Republicans want to make sure continues to go to developmental disability services, rather than reverting to the General Fund. They will gather with advocates for developmentally disabled Californians to urge support for a budget request by Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, at 1:30 p.m. on the west steps of the Capitol. Mathis will present his request to the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services at 2:30 p.m. in Room 444.

TALK THAT TALK: During her 14 years in the Legislature, San Diego Democrat Denise Moreno Ducheny, who termed out in 2010, chaired budget committees in both the Senate and the Assembly, carried legislation to create a state council overseeing Salton Sea restoration, and worked extensively on issues along the border with Mexico. She was recently interviewed for the Center for California Studies’ “State Government Oral History Program,” and will be honored with a reception, 5 p.m. at the California Museum on O St., where the document will be officially presented to the State Archives.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, who turns 43 today.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff