Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the New York City...

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the New York City Bike Expo on Friday, May 16, 2014. Credit: Bryan Smith

The lifting of New York City's ban on ferrets as pets -- in place since 1999 -- could still be "months away," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

"We have not acted yet," he said at an unrelated news conference in Queens Village. "The Department of Health proposed a change. There will be a lengthy process to determine if that will actually come to pass."

De Blasio said he wants the public to weigh in on the issue.

The health department has suggested the administration consider reversing the ban on ferrets, with restrictions. Other animals outlawed in 1999, such as wombats and vultures, have not been part of the discussion.

In an internal memo obtained by The New York Times, the agency cited several arguments against the ban, including, "Evidence shows ferrets do not bite more frequently or severely than other pets the same size, though there have been cases of severe injury to unattended infants." A "ferret proponent" in January petitioned the board of health to lift the ban, the memo said.

The prohibition was instituted by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when the health department also outlawed dingoes, pythons and about 150 other species of animals considered wild. Giuliani in 1999 infamously told a pro-ferret activist, "The excessive concern that you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist."

Ferrets, members of the weasel family, are not banned in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which both have included them in recent rabies vaccination clinics alongside cats and dogs.

De Blasio tried to downplay the fate of ferrets Friday.

"That decision is months away, so all it means is one agency has proposed the change," he said.

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