It’s a story rare and horrifying enough to deeply trouble just about anyone, but especially those of us that adore ferrets. Like something out of an urban myth, a pet ferret ate 7 fingers off of an unsupervised infant.
A terrible tragedy, but who is to blame?
A 4-month-old baby boy from Grain Valley, Missouri, was in critical condition after a family pet ferret ate seven of the infant’s fingers, and the boy’s parents are under investigation for neglect and failure to obtain a $100 license for the exotic pet, police chief Aaron Ambrose told CNN Tuesday.
The mother woke at 2:30 a.m. Monday to her baby’s crying. Her husband awakend to the mother’s screaming. The father killed the ferret, just 6 months old, by hurling it against a wall.
A horrible thing to happen, but does it really show that ferrets are dangerous?
“It’s very unusual, there’s no doubt about it,” Ambrose said of the incident. “We’re trying to figure out if this thing had a crate or a cage, or was it running around the house, It jumped into the rocker thing that the baby was sleeping in and ate seven of its fingers.”
It is recommended never to leave any pet unsupervised with an infant, not just ferrets. The ferret, also young, should have been supervised regardless for behavior issues that an immature animal may still be working on. It is also unknown if the ferret was being fed properly for this to have happend.
How common are ferret attacks?
According to Chris Lewis, former moderator of the Ferret Mailing List:
The FML has carried confirmed reports of two, possibly three, cases where an animal identified as a “ferret” has seriously injured, and in one case, I believe, killed, infants. One in the UK, and one or two in the US. In none of these cases has it been proven that the animal was a ferret – particularly in the UK, it is quite possible that the animal was actually an European polecat which are raised for fur and sometimes for hunting (in the UK). And in each case gross child and animal abuse is well documented. But it’s important to remember, that even the most pessimistic statistics on ferrets show that a ferret is about a thousand times *less* likely to cause injury than a dog. Indeed, every year there are hundreds of very serious or fatal dog attacks in the US alone. Worst case statistics show approximately 12 ferret attacks ever recorded in the US.
Dr. Bruce Williams, DVM, adds:
I can say from personal experience that there are many, many more bite incidents with the household dog or cat, and that either of these species tend to do a lot more damage. I have seen children require over a hundred facial stitches from getting between the dog and its food, but never anything like this with a ferret. But I’ve also been nailed by my share of ferrets too.
Ferrets, like all animals, should be supervised at all times with babies and small children, and this most recent tragedy sheds light on this fact. But it should in no way reflect badly upon ferrets as family pets.
This comes on the heels of some progress toward legalizing ferrets in California and is unwelcome publicity. Utah has only allowed ferrets since 1993. And in Taylorsville, UT it is legal to sell ferrets, but not to own them. The majority of ferrets sold in Utah are from Marshalls’s Farms, a large-scale breeder with the practice of neutering and descenting very young ferrets before sale. This practice can lead to complication such as adrenal disease, Marshalls ferrets are typically sold at Utah Petcos, Petsmarts, and Animal Ark. Humane Society of Utah offers these 10 Tips for New Ferret Owners.