Rudy retrospective: The ferret ban
Now that Rudy Giuliani's weighing a presidential bid, I thought it would be fun to look back at one of his lesser-known achievements as Mayor of NYC. For reasons that remain unclear, he lead the charge to ban pet ferrets in May, 2001:
Kind of tells you everything you need to know about New York politics.
The ferret legalization bill caused an unusually emotional, party-fracturing and, at times, humorous debate yesterday in the Council chambers, which was marked by alternating hissing and applause from Ms. Rainey and about 25 other ferret owners who assembled in the balcony for the show.
Councilman Noach Dear, an Orthodox Jew and Democrat from Brooklyn, said he could not vote in favor of the legalization of ferrets as pets for a simple reason: he was reminded by his rabbi that they are not kosher.
Councilwoman Una S. T. Clarke and Councilman A. Gifford Miller disagreed over whether rabbits and human babies smell alike, after a suggestion by some opponents of legalization that ferrets were once bred to hunt out and attack bunnies.
''My baby does not smell like a rabbit,'' said Mr. Miller, a Manhattan Democrat and proud father of a 6-month-old child, evoking an outburst of cheers and applause from the balcony. ''I have no problem then with a ferret spending time with my baby, because he will be safe,'' he added.
It is unknown how many people illegally own ferrets in the city, where they have been banned as ''wild animals'' since 1959. The animals are said to be legal in 48 states. But it was only after the city's Health Department added them to a list of taboo pets in 1999 that a super-charged ferret legalization movement began.
No one from the Giuliani administration spoke about the bill yesterday, but the mayor played a critical role in the debate. His staff had lobbied council members one by one and sent out a memorandum titled ''Talking Points Against the Legalization of Ferrets,'' arguing that these animals, like lions, pythons and other banned pets, are ''naturally inclined to do harm.''
''New York City is not a natural habitat!'' the memo warned. ''It's a place where millions of people live in apartment buildings'' in which the small animals could ''travel through tiny holes in walls'' and get into neighboring apartments where they might cause ''harmful consequences for unsuspecting neighbors.''
Councilman Thomas V. Ognibene of Queens, the Council's top-ranking Republican, acknowledged that his daughter, who is a veterinarian, advised him that ferrets were no more dangerous than household pets. But he then said that he was voting against the legalization for purely political reasons.
''I discussed this thoroughly with the people who matter,'' he said, referring to the Giuliani administration.[NYT]