(c) Fluffy Retreat, 2020
Registered Charity: 1163841
On the 19th of March 2021, we attended the GB Ferret Register Stakeholder Consultation Meeting. We were able to raise some concerns and seek assurance around intentions of how the register will be used. We are unable to directly answer any questions, as we are the ones setting up this register and we await further details - which we will share with you as soon as we have it. We have this week received the following information to be shared with ferret owners.
****This information is directly from the Disease Control Department of the Scottish Government. ****
You may be aware the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) previously published information on. Preventative Measures regarding SARs-CoV-2 and Ferrets in the UK .
In Denmark, in Autumn 2020, following infection passing from humans to farmed mink, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans) developed in the mink and passed back to humans. This variant was less readily killed by human SARS-CoV-2 antibodies than other variants, which raised concerns that if one of these variants spread easily amongst people, it could impact on the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions, e.g. vaccination.
It has therefore been necessary to take further measures to protect public health. Whilst mink farming is banned in the UK, other Mustelinae*, such as ferrets, are now known to be highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Research has demonstrated that new variants can arise in ferrets and they can spread infection within their own species. There is therefore concern that ferrets and other Mustelinae kept in GB could act as a reservoir of new variants with the potential to infect humans.
Legislation has now come into force in Scotland, England and Wales to make SARS-CoV-2 reportable in all mammals (except man) and so positive test results must now be reported by your vet, or private laboratory, to APHA.
Your vet can provide advice on when testing is appropriate and further information can be found here: SARS-CoV-2 in Animals – Case Definition, Testing and International Reporting Obligations (defra.gov.uk)
Register of ferrets and other captive Mustelinae
In order to ensure that ferret and other captive Mustelinae keepers are provided with up to date disease information, and to facilitate statutory testing if required, we are looking to create a register of ferrets and other captive Mustelinae. You may already be familiar with the GB Poultry Register and it is proposed the ferret register will operate in a similar way. The register will cover all kept animals classed as Mustelinae* including ferrets, polecats and their hybrids, and wild Mustelinae kept in captivity. Further references in this letter to ferrets include all captive Mustelinae.
We would like to stress that whilst mink in Denmark were subject to culling, this is not the intended purpose of the GB ferret register.
As this is a public and animal health measure, it is important to be able to implement the register as quickly as possible. The register will therefore be implemented initially on a voluntary basis in GB, likely around 1st May, before legislation is introduced by Scottish Government, Defra and Welsh Government, making registration compulsory.
The information that may be requested in the voluntary register would be minimal and is likely to include: name and address of ferret owner; the species kept; and the purpose for which the animals are kept (e.g. as pets, for commercial breeding activities, or as working animals, etc.) The register will not be publically accessible.
Following feedback from the stakeholder meeting, the minimum number of ferrets which would trigger compulsory registration, and categories of purpose, are under consideration.
We will publish further information to advise when the register opens and what ferret keepers must do to register.
Advice for Ferret Keepers
COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission, and it is rare for an animal to contract coronavirus. Despite this, taking preventive measures to address the potential for transmission from ferrets to humans is important. Should you have any concerns regarding the health of your animals, whether you keep them commercially or as pets, you should contact your vet.
Current information for animal owners:
Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners - gov.scot
England: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people in England with animals - GOV.UK
Wales: Advice for pet owners: coronavirus (COVID-19) | GOV.WALES
*Mustelinae includes animals such as ferrets, polecats, mink, weasels, stoats, ermine, martens and wolverines.