SARS-CoV-2 & The Ferret Register

The ferret register - what it means for you

If you’re a ferret lover you may have heard about the launch a register for ferrets and captive wild Mustelinae. The register was launched on 1 June 2021 and is currently a voluntary register for ferret rescue centre and ferret owners.

We’ve done some research around what the register means for fuzzbutt lovers around the UK and have summarised the important points below.

First up. Don’t panic! Registering your ferret is currently voluntary and you won’t be asked to test, cull or otherwise do nasty stuff to your furry pal. What’s more, contrary to some of the scare stories circulating at the moment, you’re a greater risk to your ferret than they are to you.

Remember the poultry register introduced following the avian flu outbreak? The ferret register is just like that. Designed to make sure you, as a ferret lover, are kept up to date with the latest information about their health and how to keep them safe. Winner, winner.

We’ve seen the latest information from the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA – a subsidiary of DEFRA) and have picked out the most important parts.

​The register has come about due to Covid-19 passing from humans to farmed mink in Denmark, Autumn 2020. The virus developed in the mink and then passed back to humans. The new strain was more resistant to human antibodies than the original version which raised concerns that if one of these variants spread easily amongst people it could impact on the effectiveness of vaccinations.

Mink farming is banned in the UK, however as the ferret is a member of the same subfamily, they are known to be susceptible to Covid-19. Research has been done and it’s been found that new variants can arise in, and be spread by, ferrets within their own species. Essentially, the concern is that UK-based ferrets could form a reservoir of new variant which COULD be spread to humans.

It’s now that law in England, Scotland and Wales to report cases of Covid-19 in all mammals (except humans). If your fuzzy develops the virus, you MUST report it to your vet, a private laboratory or APHA. If in doubt, speak to your vet.

These are worst-case scenarios. Please don’t panic!

And now we get to the register

  • The register covers all kept animals within the Mustelinae family, including ferrets, polecats and hybrids. It will also cover wild Mustelinae kept in captivity.
  • Registering your ferret will ensure you’re kept up to date with the latest advice and guidance about disease information to keep the little slinks safe. Should statutory testing be required, you’ll also be contacted via the register.
  • The register is not designed to be used to subject any Mustelinae in the UK to culling.
  • Registration is voluntary in order to get the register implemented as soon as possible. However, it may be that legislation is introduced by DEFRA, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government at some point soon. Then registration will be compulsory.

What information is required?

This is minimal. Simply the name and address of ferret owner, the species kept and the purpose for which they’re being kept (because we love their slinky little butts, obvs). The register won’t be available to prying eyes, so don’t worry.

Advice for Ferret Keepers

Covid-19 jumps from human to human and animal Covid-19 is very rare. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, which is why this register is important.

If you’re worried about your animals, speak to your vet immediately.

  • Wash your hands before and after any contact with your fuzzies, including contact with their food or bedding. There’s only been one case reported of ferrets contracting the virus via transmission from people. But again, better safe than sorry.
  • If there’s any possibility you might have the virus, minimise contact with your ferrets.
  • If your furry pal does get the virus, it should be mild. However, if they fall ill, contact the vet. Isolate infected ferrets for 21 days.