A Brief History of MaFF

Ferrets were domesticated many centuries ago in Europe, where they were used to hunt rabbits and to keep mice and rats under control.  The story of the Pied Piper is said to be that of a “ferreter”, whose trade it was to go door to door flushing out vermin by sending a few well trained ferrets through a home or business for a fee.  In England, Queen Victoria is known to have raised ferrets and was fond of giving them away as gifts.

Ferrets were brought over to Colonial America as “ratters” on sailing ships.  The official mascot of the Massachusetts Colonial Navy is a ferret! Ferrets flourished as working animals until the early 1900s when mechanical traps took over the task of rodent control, and ferreting for rabbits was seen as offering an unfair advantage to the hunter, so the keeping of ferrets was outlawed some sixty-five years ago in the state of Massachusetts.

Many decades later, the ferret began to gain popularity in the United States, but this time as a domestic pet. Around 1988, many people inside Massachusetts began to realize the charm and friendly inquisitive nature of these animals.  They began to lobby the legislature to make legal the ownership of ferrets as pets.  It was estimated by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife that there were well over 2,000 ferret owners in the state.  However, the legislation languished due to the lack of an effective owner organization and a fear on the part of many ferret owners that their beloved pets would be confiscated and euthanized should they surface or speak out.

Starting around 1993, many ferret owners in Massachusetts began to discover the Internet.  We learned that an effective rabies vaccine had been developed for ferrets.  We learned from practicing veterinarians about ferret diseases, about ferret calendars, ferret toys, and most importantly about each other.

Soon a Hotline telephone number and post office box were established, information on past efforts was collected, and our original core group of grassroots volunteers began to grow.  Legislators received many visits as a result of our efforts.  Some got to see and hold ferrets, and numerous calls and letters were once again coming into the State House.  Governor Weld graciously granted us a signing ceremony on December 12th, 1995. The bill took effect on March 7th, 1996, on which occasion Governor Weld’s speech (read by then-Lieutenant Governor Cellucci) told the assembled crowd that:

“Search and seizure may make sense if there is a crocodile in the tub or a cougar in the closet, but a ferret on the Barcalounger–that’s what domestic bliss is made of.”

Finally, after much effort, and to our great joy, it was legal to be a ferret in Massachusetts.

MaFF Outreach

Of course, we of the Massachusetts Ferret Friends know that Barcaloungers are a major source of injury or death to ferrets who get inside them and one of our concerns (as well as that of the MSPCA) at the time of their legalization was that ferrets would soon become a fad item that many would buy on impulse and then find to their surprise that some special care and attention are also required.  We knew that some percentage of pet ferrets would be neglected or abandoned.  We also knew that too many owners across the country have their loving pets confiscated and killed each year due to an exaggerated fear of ferrets as carriers of rabies.

As soon as ferrets were made legal in Massachusetts, we set about creating MaFF as a nonprofit organization.  MaFF members have been working actively to promote the acceptance of the ferret as a domestic pet.  MaFF’s mission of education, outreach and promotion of the welfare of ferrets is accomplished through many activities including ferret frolics, educational literature, ferret awareness clinics, letters to local newspapers, participation in events such as the Tufts Veterinary School open house, and the Massachusetts Pet Expo.  In addition, we provide in-service events at pet shops and veterinary clinics, and volunteers are available to speak to any group on request.


MaFF serves as a clearing house for all sorts of information concerning ferret care.  We maintain a large database of ferret knowledgeable veterinarians and provide the veterinary community with resources and information.  We are in contact with animal control officers in each town and offer classes on request to these front-line professionals who are often the first to be called in to rescue a stray or wounded animal or to handle a public health situation.  MaFF also maintains copies of many books or articles that have been written concerning ferrets.  Members are in contact on a daily basis via the Internet with over 2,000 other ferret enthusiasts world wide, and routinely share ideas, pictures and stories.  We have access to the latest ferret toys, the most comfortable cages and the latest funny ferret stories. We are up to date on everything from the latest in toilet training techniques to the latest ferret legal and medical information.

MaFF maintains a web page at http://maferrets.org with ferret information, resources, and a list of upcoming events sponsored by MaFF and other ferret organizations.  Our members receive The Fuzzy Papers (our quarterly newsletter) with information, articles, events listings, and special offers of ferret merchandise and discounts.  Additionally, we may be reached via E-mail at info@maferrets.org.


For a few ferret owners, there comes a time when, for whatever reason, they can no longer keep their pets. Because they are more vulnerable than dogs and also more persistent, inquisitive and smaller than cats, ferrets offer a special challenge to some shelters and many won't keep them.  To fill this need, MaFF is affiliated with a growing network of ferret specific and licensed shelters.  The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and many local animal rescues also refer lost ferrets (many of whom have been all too sadly abandoned by their owners) to MaFF shelters.

We work hard to publicize and promote our small but growing list of shelters, and during our first year of operation we were able to adopt out many shelter ferrets to happy homes with knowledgeable and responsible owners.


MaFF needs your help.  By joining MaFF, you are making a statement on behalf of ferrets everywhere and you are joining with hundreds of other ferret owners throughout Massachusetts in our dedication to making life the best it can be for all ferrets.  MaFF is a nonprofit organization recognized nationally for our ferret expertise and by joining together with other ferret owners, we are able to multiply our talents and visibility many times.

All money collected by MaFF be it from memberships, sales, our various functions, or general contributions is deposited in a corporate bank account and is used to pay for the cost of postage, stationery, copying, room rental, and the many other activities in which MaFF engages in the pursuit of its mission.  Copies of our financial statement are distributed at the monthly meetings and to members upon request.