The Ferret Register


Do you know the background of the ferret register in the UK?

We chatted with Derek Harding of the National Ferret Welfare Society (NFWS). He told us about the ferret register to find out why it was set up and what it hopes to achieve.

What is the ferret register?

The Covid pandemic was the catalyst that drove the foundation of the UK ferret register. During December of 2020, scientists discovered that Covid19 is transmissible between mustelids and humans. As a result, a slight panic ensued throughout Europe. Because the Netherlands and Denmark have huge mink farms, the countries took this risk very seriously.

Unfortunately around 17 million mink were culled as a result.

There wasn’t such a panic in the UK because we don’t have the mink farms that are a feature of those European countries so we didn’t need to take the culling route.

However, the UK governments of England, Scotland and Wales realised they had no idea how many ferrets there were in the UK. This mean they couldn’t estimate the risk they might carry to the human population. Initially, vets were advised to report any suspected Covid infections in mustelids as soon as they came across them. The Scottish Government brought in a register of ferrets in Scotland which became mandatory in May 2021. A similar register for England and Wales followed swiftly afterwards.

Reaction to the ferret register

When this was first launched there was quite a furore. This was because ferret owners thought there was going to be a cull of mustelids in the UK. However, he register allows the government to find out how many ferrets there are in the UK and therefore manage the risk of mustelid to human transmission of Covid19. This would then allow them to move forward with an informed plan.

At the meeting regarding the ferret register, there were representatives from all areas of the ferret industry and animal welfare groups, including petting zoos, ferret rescue centres and zoos.

Voluntary registration began on 1 June 2021 for people with five or more ferrets. The thinking behind this threshold was that people with more ferrets, or those who breed ferrets, are likely to have a greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus than those with only small numbers of ferrets.

It’s still important to have your ferrets microchipped even if you don’t need to register them on the Ferret Register. Find out more about microchipping here.

Find out more about the ferret register by visiting

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