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November 14, 2006

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:

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.

Kind of tells you everything you need to know about New York politics.


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This should really be a lesson about rudy for all the people who don't think his presidency will be that bad.

He is an authoritarian prick who seeks to dominate every aspect of the lives of the people he's supposed to care for. He will try to decide what food we can eat, what pets he deems acceptable, what sort of entertainment we should be allowed to see. He does not believe in individual freedom. He does not believe in privacy. He doesn't even believe in human rights.

If you want your police forces sodomizing suspects in bathrooms and shooting black people for sport, you can all pretend rudy isn't that bad. He's not going to support gay marriage and abortion rights if he gets into power. You're far more likely to see things like concetration camps for the homless and privatized militas running your police forces. It should be noted that whatever progressive beliefs he holds is far outweighed by his open and obvious hostility towards anyone darker than a brown paper bag.

Ferret bans might sound silly. But taken with the totality of everything he did as mayor, it's impossible to ignore. The overriding goal of his political career has been to establish as totalitarian a system as he possibly can everywhere he goes.

Very well put, Soullite.

Rudy's ferret ban is nicely mirrored by our current mayor's efforts to ban city restaurants from serving food containing trans fats. That's the thing with NYC Republicans--they don't even try to maintain the pretense of being about smaller, less intrusive government.

There is, of course, the notable distinction that ferrets are harmless, whereas trans fats (and smoking) aren't.

As someone who lives in a very densely populated urban environment (San Francisco), I don't have a problem with outlawing ferrets. Hell, I'd like to see dogs banned here.

That said, in the context of Giuliani it is an illustration of his fundamentally authoritarian personality.

Speaking of trans fats, though, allow me to bleg -- if I want coffee and donuts delivered to an AM rehearsal on the Upper East Side, who do I call for this? I kind of figured Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts would have some kind of in-house delivery service, but they don't.

There is, of course, the notable distinction that ferrets are harmless, whereas trans fats (and smoking) aren't.

True. Although it must be said that with trans fats, only the consumer is harmed--there's no "second-hand smoke" kind of argument, so it really is a notch further up the busybody scale than the smoking ban.

And hey, your musicians get free coffee & donuts just for showing up at rehearsal? You wouldn't happen to need an extra bass player, would you?

The high point of the ferret ban was when the President of a local ferret appreciation society called in to Giuliani's radio show to protest, and Rudy teed off on him:

There is something deranged about you ... this excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness ... you should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels. You need somebody to help you. There are people in this city and in this world that need a lot of help. Something has gone wrong with you.

A week later, he was at it again:

Caller Let me introduce myself again: David Guthartz, executive president of New York Ferrets' Rights Advocacy. Last week when we spoke, you made a very disparaging remark to me: that I should get a life. That was very unprofessional of you.

Giuliani There's something deranged about you.

Guthartz No, there isn't, sir.

Giuliani The excessive concern that you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist, not with me.

Guthartz Don't go insulting me again!

Giuliani I'm not insulting you. I'm being honest with you. Maybe no one in your life has ever been honest with you.

Guthartz I happen to be more sane than you.

Giuliani This conversation is over, David. Thank you.

Guthartz was then cut off the air, but Giuliani continued: "There is something really, really, very sad about you," he said. "You need help. This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness. You should consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist ..."

Yep - Rudy Giuliani: America's Mayor

(He actually has an extensive history of insisting that anyone who disagrees with him about anything is mentally ill - rather a daring charge, on Rudy's part, I would think.)

I hate to say it, but this guy sounds worse than Bush. I've only heard a couple stories and already he sounds like a dick.

And hey, your musicians get free coffee & donuts just for showing up at rehearsal?

Not normally, but this time we have two 10 AM rehearsals in a row and I'm trying to provide an incentive to show up on time.

Ah, it's a good thing that we have a mayor in Chicago with no authoritarian tendencies whatever (is that a bulldozer I hear?). ;)

I hate to say it, but this guy sounds worse than Bush.

Well, I happen to think they're both pricks, but there's a big difference: Bush, as a rule, keeps his inner asshole well under wraps in public. Rudy wears his as a badge of honor.

Thomas V. Ognibene:

I discussed this thoroughly with the people who matter

And we all know who matters and who doesn't. In our government of the people who matter, by the people who matter, for the people who matter.

I'm so glad Kevin Keith linked that radio show: the "deranged... little weasels" routine isn't why I despise Giuliani, but it does kind of sum it up on some level.

Forget about the ferrets. I mentioned it here before but it definitely bears repeating now that "America's Mayor" has presidential ambitions: In 1982 Giuliani said that Haitian refugees did not deserve political asylum because there was "no political repression" in Haiti.

NYT, 4/13/82:

The third-ranking official of the Justice Department says he is convinced that there is ''no political repression'' in Haiti.

Associate Attorney General Rudolph W. Giuliani, testifying Thursday at a hearing of a class-action lawsuit seeking the release of 2,100 refugees in Government detention camps, said that repression in Haiti "simply does not exist now" and that refugees had nothing to fear from the Government of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Mr. Giuliani said he visited Haiti two weeks ago and met with several officials, including President Duvalier. "Political repression is not the major reason for leaving Haiti," Mr. Giuliani said. He said he reached that conclusion after Mr. Duvalier personally assured him that Haitians returning home from the United States were not persecuted.

The suit charges that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has discriminated against the Haitians by illegally detaining them and denying them access to lawyers.

We're talking about "Baby Doc" Duvalier here, but Rudy took him at his word. The same "Baby Doc" who used the Tonton Macoutes to torture and kill tens of thousands Haitian citizens. I wonder how many Haitian refugess who were returned to Haiti were subsequently tortured and killed because of the stone-cold indifference of St. Ron of the Supply Side and his trusty attorney, Rudy Giuliani?

If Rudy gets elected in '08 then I guess we can count on him to continue Bush's stellar human rights initiatives. So if you're caught with a ferret prepare to be waterboarded.

Just to be clear, the Haitian refugees that were detained indefinitely under the Reagan administration were ultimately released only after a federal court ruled against the U.S. government. However, many other Haitian boat people were interdicted at sea and forcibly repatriated under Ronnie's regime. This was a stark reversal of the Carter administration's treatment of Haitians, who were given political asylum similar to Cubans during Carter's tenure.

To be fair, Clinton also forcibly repatriated Haitians during his presidency even though he criticized Bush 41 for doing it while he was campaigning against him in '92. Then again, Clinton was never my favorite president.

Ha! Reminds me of a joke that city workers used to tell when they found out Giuliani was going to be writing a book on leadership.

"It'll be the shortest book ever. Chapter One: Do it. Chapter Two: I told you to do it. Chapter Three: You're fired."

Just to be clear about ferrets: They've been domesticated since at least Roman times, the original wild animal being the polecat Putorius putorius (or Mustela putorius depending on who's original description is being accepted). They were kept as mousers and to hunt rabbits. “Putorius” refers to their smell which can be nasty in animals that have not had their scent glands removed. They're mustelids, in the same group –the weasel family- as skunks, minks, badgers, otters and others, many of whom have nasty-smelling scent glands. They’re illegal (unless spayed) in California, not because of their mythological propensity for baby-killing, but because the fish and game officials would prefer to preclude the possibility of feral ferrets eating up the small wildlife. Sardinia and Sicily have populations of what apparently are feral domestic ferrets. A legal Californian ferret has earned a living helping clean the cyclotron in Berkeley. They put a little harness on the animal and have it drag a string through the cyclotron’s tube. The string is used in turn to drag a dusting sponge through the tube. Baby ferrets are, as you would expect, insanely cute.

You can judge for yourself if Rudy should be included with ferrets in the weasel family.

Rudy is a weasel ..

but as a ferret person and a particle physicist I have to set the record straight on one of the responses.

Ferrets are illegal in Calif - spayed or unspayed.

The ferret/particle physics story refers to Felicia the Ferret at Fermilab in the early 70s...">">

Ferrets were also used in Switzerland to run telephone cables. (perhaps elsewhere .. you show our guys a tube and they have to run it)

Thank you Steve. I read about the atom-smashing ferret a long time ago and thought it wonderful that particle physics had room for such a low-tech solution. Very sorry to hear the ferrets are now robotted out of a job.

You're also right about ferrets being illegal in Calif. It seems a bit excessive, considering now that the several ferrets I've seen in Calif. turn out to be illegal. They're just encouraging ferret fancying scofflaws.

People reading this should know that domestic ferrets are not the same as the black-footed ferret, native to the Great Plains and a whole different kettle of very gravely endangered fish.

Hello fellow american

Ferrets For Freedom have been Banned from Youtube!!!
First they banned the Ferrets, now they banned the movie!!!

Where is our freedom of speech!

Ferrets of our Nation

Speak out!

Yours truly,
leader of the ny ferrets
member of ferrets for freedom

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