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AFA in Discussion with USDA to Regulate Kit Sales; Your Help is Needed to Save Baby Ferrets!

July 1, 2002

Here is your chance to make a difference to help save hundreds of baby ferrets!

Do you know that there are USDA regulations that protect and safeguard the shipment of dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters?

Do you know that baby ferrets currently do not have any regulations to protect and safeguard their shipment?

Does this make you angry and ready to make a change that could ultimately
guarantee that baby ferrets won't get shipped too young?

Many baby ferrets are transported before they have their full set of adult teeth. This makes it difficult for some of the babies to survive the rigors of transportation. Sometimes they aren't ready to eat hard food yet so they don't fare very well when they reach their destination. (Please click here to read about a tragic event dealing with a shipment of baby ferrets.) Just like dogs and cats, ferrets should not be transported until they are at least 8 weeks of age.

The American Ferret Association is currently having dialog with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the minimum age and weight at which ferrets may be shipped. At this time, there are NO criteria for this in USDA rules. We are well aware, from the many complaints we have had from the public, that many infant ferrets are being shipped to pet stores and elsewhere at an age and weight where their very lives are at stake. Some are too young to even eat ferret food and still have their "milk teeth". Due to the large number of these tiny babies dying, either in transit, (again, reference an article on 48 baby ferrets that died in December, 2000, who were all less than 300 grams upon shipment), or starving at pet stores or other facilities because of unknowledgeable personnel, or even personnel needing to provide round the clock care of the babies to feed them until they were able to eat on their own, it is imperative that we correct the regulations to cover the shipping of infant ferrets.

The Rulemaking Committee in the USDA will take approximately 6 months to complete its own study. At that time, they will release the facts they have obtained in a USDA Official Press Release. According to the USDA, nothing can be done until this has been completed and no letters from the public can be accepted beforehand. However, once the Press Release is out, there is a limited time when they will accept letters (4 copies of each letter, each one being hand-signed) from the general public regarding the issue at hand which they will take into full consideration when drawing up the final regulations.

Through this dialog, the AFA has considered 8 weeks to be "any age at which an infant ferret is a minimum of 450 grams and has all 4 of their adult canine teeth". Checking the dentition is a reliable indication of actual age and a USDA Inspector could easily use this criteria if he/she were to check the kits in a shipment. In this respect, if a kit had been ill or was behind the others in a litter, this would prevent the shipping of this kit until it had advanced to the specified weight and had adult dentition.

Due to the numerous complaints AFA has received and for the welfare of all young ferrets, AFA is asking for the public to help. If you or anyone you have known has had any problems in this area of buying a pet store ferret that was unable to eat dry ferret food, one that you have observed as starving at a pet store because it was unable to eat or any other issue along these lines, we would very much like to hear from you. We will also need letters from ANY ferret enthusiast, even if they have not had this problem, to be sent at the proper time, to a specific USDA address, to support our proposals regarding age and weight. We are also interested in statements from shelters, private breeders, vets and other interested parties who would be able to write and sign these letters when needed. This is a national problem and needs the attention of every ferret owner. The number of letters the USDA will receive is the most important factor - without your entire support, AFA cannot get this regulation to pass on its own- We have been told that the public responses weigh heavily on the actual guidelines to be used in the final regulation. AFA would like these regulations to reflect criteria from all ferret enthusiasts who are interested in the welfare of the ferret.

The AFA was told by the Director of Animal Care - Animal Transport Department, that the most letters they had ever received on a proposal was 39,000. Hopefully, we will be able to break that record. Please send an email with a synopsis of your input or simply your email address if you are willing to help to:

Gail Suzanne Burlaka
AFA Member-at-Large

Spread the word!! We are also asking you to tell all of your ferret friends about this very important issue.

The time to send in your letters will be posted on AFA's website, so please check back often!