September 4, 2005 in Features

Couple turn their home into ferret sanctuary

Kristen A. Graham Knight Ridder
 

PHILADELPHIA – There are dog people. There are cat people.

And then there are Cheryl and Steve Reznick, a class unto themselves. The Gibbsboro, N.J., couple are ferret people – get-down-on-the-floor-and-let-the- weasel-looking-things-run-all- over-you people.

An entire floor of their home is given over to ferret cages, ferret toys, ferret photos, ferret signs, ferret treats, intricate charts of their 31 ferrets — even a wood shelf crammed with tiny containers of ferret ashes.

“Those are our ferrets that didn’t make it,” Steve said.

People seeking the furry creatures have come from four states to their home, which doubles as the South Jersey Ferret Rescue and Sanctuary. If the Reznicks deem them worthy – “Need to kiss your ferret daily! Important!” the paperwork reads – the applicants pay a fee of $60 or more, and the adoption is final. But the Reznicks get more ferrets than they send into the world. In a month, six ferrets might be adopted out and 10 taken in.

The Reznicks operate a no-kill shelter – licensed and annually inspected by the state – and will take any ferret from anywhere, regardless of medical need. Most owners who abandon ferrets do so because of veterinary problems, and Steve said he owes a $12,000 veterinary bill himself.

Offering his battle-scarred arm for Bear, a sable ferret, Steve, who operates a kitchen-cabinet business to keep up with the ferrets’ expenses, said all the work was worth it.

Ferrets are among the most popular pets in America, he said, “but they get very little support, and not every vet will treat a ferret.”

Cheryl, 60 and Steve, 62, became ferret fanatics after buying Pierre at a pet shop in the mid-1980s. The cuddly guy, whom they call “our first fur child,” was partial to watching toilets flush and once hid in the freezer on top of a package of ground beef for hours.

“Once we had Pierre, we found there wasn’t a lot of information about ferrets. A lot of ferrets were being turned in to shelters and euthanized,” Cheryl said.

A trip to buy a new cage turned into their first rescue, and things took off from there. Now cages with brightly colored baby toys dangling from them so the ferrets can play – each gets an hour out of the cage a day – fill what would be the Reznicks’ living room.

Some ferrets bite, but sanctuary employee Bonnie MacDonald, who works at the Reznicks’ six days a week, is a miracle worker at coaxing the nasty ones back to proper form.

The fur children have drilled into the back of sofas, dug into trash cans, marked up arms and noses, busted budgets, even wrecked social lives.

“Because of the scent of the ferrets and the way they look like rats, we pretty much lost all our friends,” Steve said unapologetically.

But, he said, there is a silver lining.

“We don’t need to buy living room furniture,” he said, giving albino ferret Elvis a delicate kiss on the lips.


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