Slinky, curious, and intelligent—ferrets have been domesticated for centuries. But in D.C., New York City, Hawaii, and California ferret owners face threats of jail time and fines up to $10,000.

Ferret opponents fret that the 20-inch mammals are likely to launch "vicious unprovoked attacks on humans," despite a study from California's own Research Bureau which found that ferrets don't "pose an unusual risk of bites." Others worry that escaped pet ferrets could form feral bands in the wild, but the same study found it "improbable that domestic ferrets could establish feral colonies in California." 

In 2004, the popular pet was nearly legalized in California, but the bill was stopped dead by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto. Ferret legalization groups remain undeterred. As David Gaines of the American Ferret Association explains, "it takes people and the grassroots knocking on the door of the legislature saying 'stop laughing, this issue is important to me and I'm your constituent.'"

3 minutes. Produced by Joshua Swain. Additional help by Amanda Winkler. Narration by Todd Krainin. And special thanks to The Ferret Inn.

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