The American ferret’s reputation took a big hit today when the CBS network comedy “Two and a Half Men” purposely misrepresented ferrets in their episode just to make a (very bad) joke. Members of Portland’s local ferret community are shocked and dismayed after watching their beloved show, one of the only shows on television that mentions ferrets at all. They are reaching out to producer Chuck Lorre to help repair some of the damage and fallout from his actions.
The anti-ferret information was shown in the middle of the episode “Ferrets, Attack!” which aired on Thursday, November 1. The two main characters, Alan and Walden, were supposedly mauled by two ferrets at the direction of a spurned crazy stalker character named Rose. Rose was able to sic her two ferrets onto Walden by simply calling out “Ferrets, attack!” Rose also placed the two sable ferrets in Walden’s car as a trap, in which Alan accidentally got caught when he borrowed Walden’s car. In addition, Rose asked the two male characters to get rabies shots in order to be safe around her ferrets.
These types of pop-culture references do much to harm the ferret, which is already illegal in California because of misinformation like this. This kind of irresponsible propaganda is directly responsible for people turning in thousands of previously loved family pets.
How does this happen? Too often, when concerned parents hear these kinds of stories, they often swiftly bring their pets down to the animal shelters, most of which are not equipped to deal with the unique needs of ferrets. As a direct result, thousands of ferrets are killed on the spot. The lucky few that make it to already overburdened ferret shelters are traumatized and grieve for their families. Ferrets are extremely sensitive animals who get very attached to their owners, and they can easily go into what is called “shelter shock”. They stop eating, they stop moving, and they wait to die.
Thousands and thousands of dead and traumatized pet ferrets, all because producer Chuck Lorre thought this would be funny.
What, exactly, does the ferret community think is wrong with this show?
- Ferrets can not be made to attack human beings on command. They are not like attack dogs. Ferrets are typically not aggressive (unless they are abused for long periods of time). The typical ferret is a joyful and playful being. Ferrets can do tricks, and they have historically been used to chase rabbits out of warrens. But they have no “pack” instinct. They would not be able to be directed in a hierarchical manner like dogs can. If ferrets could be trained to attack (and some ferrets are abused to this point, sadly), they would also attack their trainer and anyone else who got near them.
- A 2-pound ferret would be killed very quickly if a 180-pound man hit or grabbed it too harshly. Ferrets have weaker spines than most other animals and are very prone to damage from being dropped or hit. If a ferret did attack Walden or Alan, these healthy men would easily have been able to defend themselves.
- Ferrets do not perform the biting behavior shown on the show. At the Oregon Ferret Shelter, which has seen many cases of abused ferrets who may strike out in fear, a typical ferret bite is a very quick thing. They do not gnaw, they do not linger; they bite so they can be released and get away as fast as they can. They certainly wouldn’t be able to take the tip of a full-grown man’s finger off in a single bite. Their mouths are tiny.
- Ferrets very rarely catch rabies. According to Chris Mathis, owner of the Oregon Ferret Shelter with 27 years of experience, rabies infections in ferrets are extremely rare. Indeed, since 1958, there have been only 14 confirmed cases, as recorded by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), mostly due to improper vaccine use. And if a ferret should get rabies, it kills them before they get to the point where they could infect humans (they get what is called “dumb rabies”). In addition, rabies shots are now widely available for ferrets. Certainly any owner with money and vet availability would give their animal this protection, and Rose is supposed to be very wealthy. Even in California, where ferrets are illegal, vets who treat ferrets can be found very easily by reading the online version of Ferrets magazine at http://www.smallanimalchannel.com/ferrets-magazine/. “Two and a Half Men” viewers know that the character of Rose reads Ferrets Magazine because she was pictured doing so in an earlier episode.
Some people would say, “It’s just a joke.” And if viewers didn’t take away false impressions about ferrets from extremely popular shows like these, it would be fine. But they do. And it won’t be fine.
Sometimes, writers and producers go for the easy laughs. And because ferrets are not well-known, especially in California, their instinct is to mock these adorable bouncy creatures. Chuck Lorre picked on ferrets one too many times. Unfortunately, it’s thousands of beloved family pets that are going to pay the price. The ferret community would like Chuck Lorre to help repair some of the damage, whether addressing the situation in the show, in his vanity card, or through some other action to help ferrets. (One suggestion has been made to perhaps draw attention to the fact that ferrets are illegal in California by having Rose lose her pets because someone turns her in to the Department of Fish and Game. If Lorre wants to see other suggestions, he only has to friend the OFS on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OregonFerretShelter and ask. A whole community of ferret lovers is ready to help him.)
If you don’t approve of the way Chuck Lorre put thousands of ferrets’ lives at risk through his irresponsible actions, write the CBS network and tell them. Lorre will never know the harm he caused unless the animal rescue community speaks up.
Here is their address:
Ms. Nina Tassler
President, CBS Entertainment
7800 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039-2112
And here is the CBS website: http://www.cbs.com/
Perpetuating dangerous stereotypes like these often results in people giving up their “dangerous” ferrets out of fear and ignorance. The Oregon Ferret Shelter already has several hundred homeless ferrets to care for. Other shelters across the world are in the same situation. This kind of irresponsible propaganda just makes their lives harder.
If you would like to help the Oregon Ferret Shelter deal with the expected incoming flood of surrendered ferrets, please go to http://www.oregonferretshelter.org/donations.htm. Or you can call the shelter directly at (503) 557-8369. The shelter accepts checks (made out to “Oregon Ferret Shelter”), cash, debit or credit cards, or Paypal donations. They also accept donations of other goods.
You can mail donations to the shelter at:
Oregon Ferret Shelter
17560 S Holly Lane, Oregon City, OR 97045
Oregon City, OR 97045
If you would rather handle your donation online, here is the OFS’ Wish List: http://www.oregonferretshelter.org/wishlist.htm. You can access their Amazon.com Wish List at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/19E8VGF9PXSOC. You can send the shelter a Paypal donation at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com, or you can click the Paypal button located in the upper left-hand corner of the OFS website (www.oregonferretshelter.org/home.htm). You can even sign up for a monthly subscription by going to http://www.oregonferretshelter.org/donations.htm and looking for the Paypal Subscribe button on the lower part of the page.
The Oregon Ferret Shelter is a Federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your donations are tax-deductible.