New York City's ban on pet ferrets was reaffirmed Tuesday in a vote by the city's Board of Health, which rejected a challenge to the restriction on owning the animals.
The board voted 3-2 to lift the ban, but six affirmative votes were required, and five members abstained, according to Health Department spokeswoman Veronica Lewin.
Ferrets have been prohibited as pets under the health code that bans ownership of wild animals since 1959. The Board of Health voted in 1999 to establish a list of banned animals in the city and included ferrets, which are related to weasels.
"We appreciate the board's concern for the health and safety of New Yorkers in their decision to keep in place the prohibition on ferret ownership in New York City," the Health Department said in a statement.
A member of the public asked the Board of Health to review the ban last year, Lewin said.
David Gaines, the legal affairs committee director for the American Ferret Association, said the ban is frustrating because in other cities it's a "nonissue."
He said several cities, including Dallas and Minneapolis, have overturned ferret bans in recent years.
"We believe all the facts are on our side," Gaines said. Ferrets, he said, are domesticated and "completely safe, appropriate companion animals."
When the Board of Health formalized the ferret ban in 1999, it cited concerns for public safety.
"Ferrets are known for their unpredictable behavior, and they are prone to vicious, unprovoked attacks on humans," a Health Department statement said then.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who supported that decision, famously hung up on a man who called in to his radio show on behalf of a pro-ferret organization in 1999. Giuliani said the man had an "excessive concern with little weasels."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday after the ban was affirmed that it was "a decision for the Board of Health to make, and if that's their judgment, I'm comfortable with their judgment."
Other animals included on the list of banned pets include pigs, hedgehogs, dolphins, venomous spiders and grizzly bears.
With Matthew Chayes