Where Are Ferrets Illegal To Own? United States & Other Countries

Ferrets can be the sweetest pets and they’re definitely the most interesting ones to keep around. They either sleep or find a way to get themselves busy. And it’s usually at the expense of your house. But if left in the wilderness, they can create havoc on the native wildlife. This is why many countries around the world forbid the ownership of ferrets.

Ferret types

In this article, we’ll take a look at all the places you cannot own a ferret both in the U.S.A. and outside.

Where are ferrets illegal to own in the United States?

The U.S.A. accepts ferrets as pets almost anywhere, except three places. And these are New York, the District of Columbia, California, and Hawaii. The other places accept them with various sets of rules and some areas even require special permits. But wherever you go, your ferret will have to be neutered. This is why it’s extremely hard to get an intact ferret in the U.S.

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If you travel pretty often and you’d like to take your pet ferret with you, it’s highly recommended to inform yourself of the local laws regardless of where you’re going. You’ll be surprised how strict some areas can be on ferret owners.

New York City

While the state of New York doesn’t ban ferrets, the City of New York has a very strict ban against them in each of its five boroughs (Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and State Island). The reason they were banned is that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani regarded them as vicious relatives to weasels and they have been illegal since 1999.

District of Columbia

While the District of Columbia is not very harsh on ferret owners, adopting a ferret is definitely not easy. You will have to get a permit from the District of Columbia Health Department first. They are illegal but waivers are issues case by case.


A fun fact about Hawaii is that they are a country that’s 100% free of rabies. This is thanks to their strict quarantine laws. And owning a ferret in Hawaii will be a very serious offense as these creatures can easily revert to their feral state. Ferrets are also known to carry rabies in the wild, and this is not a risk Hawaii is willing to take.

You will end up having to pay a fine of $200,000 if you are caught owning a ferret. More than that, you can easily get up to 4 years in prison. But if you’re willingly turning the ferret in to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), you won’t have to fear prosecution.


When it comes to harsh laws against ferrets, California is very serious about it. This is not because of pure hatred against ferrets. These creatures can be extremely destructive, which can seriously hurt the area’s already delicate ecosystem balance. A few escaped ferrets might not seem much unless they’re intact. They make lots of kits and they grow up very fast.

The only way you can own a ferret in California is for a special circumstance, such as medical research, but definitely not for home possession. You will need a permit from the California Department of Fish and Game. Otherwise, you might face a pretty high fine and your pet will be confiscated immediately.

Other US States

There are different rules you need to respect all over the country. Georgia and Illinois made them completely legal and you don’t even need a permit. Dallas also lifted the ban on ferrets and you’re good as long as you abide by the vaccination codes while you own the ferret.

Wisconsin has various laws that vary depending on where exactly you are. While they are legal, the city of Oshkosh considers them wild animals and you can’t get one within city limits.

Are they illegal in other countries? Europe, Australia & more

Other countries are a bit more relaxed when it comes to ferrets, especially most of Europe. Ferrets are also descendants of the European polecat, which means most of the local wildlife can handle these little predatory creatures. They’re not popular as pets in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand have some pretty serious laws against owning ferrets. It doesn’t matter if they’re for hunting or just as pets.


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The only country in Europe that has a serious ban on ferrets is Portugal. You can easily get arrested if you are seen with a ferret, and the pet will immediately be confiscated. There aren’t cops looking specifically for ferrets, but if you are seen with one you will be in a lot of trouble.

This means that you cannot take the ferret outside for a walk and you definitely won’t be able to take them to the vet. They are required to call the officials and your will be fined very seriously. The reason why they’re illegal is that you cannot use them for hunting. And despite various activists trying to lift the ban on them, there is no chance that will happen anytime soon.


Don’t even think about bringing your ferret pet to Australia if you plan on traveling to Queensland or the Northern Territory. They are completely illegal and you can get into serious trouble if you’re found owning one. Western Australia is also pretty strict but you’ll be OK as long as you prove that the ferret is not actually a weasel.

New Zealand

New Zealand has one of the most unique and delicate native wildlife. Lots of birds are on the verge of extinction and lots of ferrets love hunting them. Over a hundred years ago, ferrets, weasels, and stoats made their way into New Zealand’s wilderness, according to the Department of Conservation.

Native wildlife, like the kiwi or the kakapo cannot deal with these dangerous predators. More than that, as fur-farming became more popular, the ferrets that escaped pose a serious threat to the native wildlife as well.

South Africa

<When it comes to South Africa, ferrets are definitely not illegal. However, you still need to meet certain criteria before being allowed to own a ferret as a pet. You will need to get a permit and prove that your pet is neutered. The National Environmental Management Biodiversity (NEMB) considers them as a highly invasive species.