Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Monday, May 21, 2001
Release # 164-01

Contact: Sunny Mindel / Sid Dinsay
(212) 788-2958


Remarks of Mayor Giuliani at Public Hearing on Local Laws

The final bill before me today is Introductory Number 627-A, sponsored by Council Member Freed and six of her colleagues. The bill would allow New Yorkers, with some restrictions, to own, buy and sell domestic ferrets.

This legislation is unenforceable and simply disregards City health officials' long-standing position on ferrets. The Board of Health has banned the sale and ownership of ferrets in the City for thirty years, a health policy supported by commissioners of the Department of Health through successive administrations. The New York City Charter clearly grants the Board authority to regulate all matters that affect public health in the City through the Health Code. The Charter does not permit the City Council to pass legislation that is inconsistent with provisions of the Health Code enacted by the Board. By attempting to legalize the sale and ownership of ferrets in the City, this bill directly contradicts the Health Code's ferret ban and is, therefore, unenforceable.

It is simply poor public policy for the Council to pass a bill over the objections of the City's health professionals. Attempting to enact legislation that is inconsistent with the Board of Health's rule would be akin to the City Council deciding unilaterally that tigers are no longer dangerous and should be legal pets in the City.

This is not a political issue particular to my Administration. For many years, City health officials, professional experts on public health, have banned ferrets because the animals have been found to be "naturally inclined to do harm." According to experts, ferrets may attack people even when unprovoked and usually target babies and small children as their victims.

Moreover, while ferrets may be legal in many other jurisdictions, few places in the country have living conditions similar to those found in this City. Millions of New Yorkers live in densely-populated multiple dwellings. Ferrets are quick and flexible and can easily escape from their owners' apartments and slip through wall openings into neighboring apartments.

Instead of respecting and acknowledging decades of findings by the Board of Health and the Department of Health, the Council has chosen to spend valuable public service time debating and approving a bill that ignores the determinations of health professionals. The interests of the people whom we all represent would be far better served if the Council took up any number of substantive bills pending before it, such as my bill to make the Administration for Children's Services a permanent City agency, or my bill to reduce breeding areas for West Nile mosquitoes by tightening City regulations on the disposal of scrap tires.

In sum, this bill is unenforceable and would pose a threat to public health. The Council should respect the parameters established by law and common sense and avoid tampering with the rulings of public health officials.

For the reasons previously stated, I will now veto the bill.