Suspending Legislative Efforts (11/25/19)
Our goal has always been to find a way to strategically and effectively advocate for ferrets in California as well as run an organization that is accountable by its board and members. We’ve never approached this task assuming we knew everything; we’ve welcomed information from those who are well informed. Our leadership spent the past two years meeting and being advised by professionals who have created successful advocacy organizations and changed laws in California. Their advice was directly used to shape UCFA and our approach to amending the ban on on ferrets.
Professionals who have contributed their expertise to UCFA:
- 28 California State legislative offices (Assemblymembers, Senators, Chiefs of Staff, Legislative Directors & Legislative Aides.)
- 3 former ferret bill authors & co-authors.
- 7 lobbyists at the state and federal level.
- 5 successful animal activist organizations.
- 2 former Congressional staff members.
- 3 State agencies who would be affected by amending the ban.
- 3 attorneys in the State Attorney General’s office & 1 at a district level.
We also made a point to learn from the ferret advocates who came before us. This includes the archives from the California Domestic Ferret Association, Californians for Ferret Legalization and the accomplished work of the Carley’s from the 1980s – 2006, as well as over twenty ferret enthusiasts who have been involved with the movement for 20 or more years.
This year we’ve done extraordinary work while only spending around $2,300. This includes two advocacy trips to Sacramento, a trip to Las Vegas to form priceless relationships with the pet industry, several regional day trips, the start up filing cost for an organization (around $750), and we only spent around $80 on internet advertising. $460 dollars and half our our time were spent to directly address the misinformation and isolating actions taken by a long running ferret organization. We are very conscious not to waste your generous donations and make sure every cent is used responsibly.
There are several challenges to overcome toward amending the ban on ferrets; reputation, funding, politics, research, & apathy within the community. Ferrets have become an extremely complicated political issue. Our problems have been expanding in Sacramento for over 30 years and has never had time to rest and reset.
Our most recent trip to Sacramento took two and a half months of heavy preparation to secure 15 meetings in one productive week. There are 120 legislators in the Capital. If we met with 15 legislators a week it would take eight straight weeks of meetings to advocate to each individual office. Include the prep-work that goes in to it; and we’re looking at six months of full-time work. This is why it is so important to have a lobbyist. They have the connections and can meet with offices much more quickly and effectively.
We’ve been told ferrets are the “third rail of California politics.” The, “joke in the Senate is, ‘who carries the ferret bill this year’,” (this was from one of the most pro ferret legislators in Sacramento), “the ferret people are known to be as difficult to work with as the anti-vaxxers and don’t listen.” These comments are not about the reputation of UCFA, but the reputation created by another organization and of the ferret movement as a whole.
Politics is an industry just like any other. Many staff members and politicians work to build their careers, in order to move up and be better suited to impact the political process. This goes far beyond the politicians Californians elect. For example, a current legislator was on the staff of a former bill sponsor back in the early 2000s. A former Fish & Game Commissioner is now on the legislative staff for the Governor. This is why the abysmal reputation that has been earned by the ferret movement is such a problem for us. Negative impressions are strong and live on well past their occurrences impacting any potential relationships or legislative efforts. The ferret movement is not in a position to upset or offend anyone in politics; but in the recent past, has managed to alienate most of Sacramento.
In order to repair and address the ferret reputation in Sacramento, it has been recommended by several successful lobbyists, that a longtime ferret organization needs to cease their operations. Until this occurs, any money and time we spend on the movement will be wasted because, the other legislatively driven ferret organization, will continue to undo the progress we make. Ferrets are such a small movement in Sacramento. Decriminalization and legalization are similar enough; both would allow some legal path to ownership, that it is extremely difficult to separate the two organizations. In the minds of policymakers, all ferret organizations are connected. Secondly, the issue needs time to rest and not be in the minds of our officials. Third, raise half a million dollars; $300,000 would be used for public affairs over three years ( to create a new image for the movement publicly and politicly) and the rest for lobbying, educating, and cultivating a legislative champion.
The other legislative organization is now attempting to impersonate our respectful, informed, and gracious advocacy, as well as our marketing of California Ferrets. The political and professional allies who contacted us two years ago, with encouragement and advice, have made it clear that they will not give their support to any other ferret organization. These organizations are the ONLY allies of the ferret movement. We understand this news is not emotionally satisfying but it is an honest and well informed view of where we are as a movement. The experts agree, lawsuits are not a suitable option and a ballot initiative will fail. That is why we focused on the state legislature.
There is no one thing that can be done right now to amend the ban on ferrets. Obtaining support from an organization, a legislator, getting one report or study completed, having an article written about us is not enough. This is a complex issue and all the pieces have to come together at the same time to be effective. Any new data we gather will be outdated by the time the issue has rested, the reputation is repaired, funding obtained, more enthusiasts get involved and we have a bill sponsor.
For these reasons, our board has decided it would be unethical and irresponsible of us, or anyone to continue to ask for your hard earned money, generous donations and volunteer time; thus, we are suspending our legislative efforts. Our organization will remain intact and ready, if and when the opportunity arises.
We strongly encourage those interested in ferrets to join your local ferret club. These organizations are a valuable resource for support, education, advice and community. Supporting your local clubs will also strengthen the tremendous rescue efforts here in California. We need to continue to come together as a community. Enjoy your time with your ferrets (they are why we all did this tasking work), be vigilant and keep your pets safe.
Want to read more about the work we’ve done? Head to our blog!