LA MESA, Calif. — To Pat Wright, his beloved Fausto, Bailey and Tiger are smart, impish and endlessly entertaining, a counterbalance to the dreariness of modern life.
To the state of California, the three domestic ferrets are outlaws, and Wright is a criminal for harboring them.
California is one of only two states — Hawaii is the other — that ban the ownership of domestic ferrets. The California Fish and Wildlife Department fears that pet ferrets, a nonnative species, could escape, go feral and prey on native species and out-compete them for food.
Wright, 54, says that argument is bogus. For 25 years, he has been trying to get California to lift the ban, which dates from the mid-1930s.
“It really bothers me when rights are abused,” he said during an interview in the spacious home east of San Diego that he and his partner share with the three ferrets, three dogs (Blue, Shorty and Luna) and a cat (Martini). The ferret ban, he says, “is a symptom of the disempowerment of the average person in California.”
Wright ran for Assembly and then lieutenant governor on a free-the-ferrets platform (and lost badly both times). He sued the Fish and Game Commission (and lost). He formed Ferrets Anonymous to gather political clout. He became an officer in the local Libertarian Party.
He held rallies in Sacramento and San Diego. He went to county jail for 17 terrifying days after tussling with a Fish and Game inspector who tried to seize one of his ferrets over an alleged biting incident at a rally.
He came close to victory in 2004 when the Legislature, after considerable hectoring, passed a bill dropping the ban. The bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite the governor’s starring role in the movie “Kindergarten Cop,” in which he appeared with a ferret.