Gem Ferret Care Group
The History of GEM
Very few of us were members at the founding of the group and so I felt it would be of interest to the current membership to read an article written by Jackie Drakeford. I read this a few months ago and it made me understand a lot more about the thoughts behind the group and the reasons for keeping us as a small friendly group. I understand that we will not stay exactly as those members set us up to be but perhaps we should try to stay true to the basic beliefs of those founders, for without them there would not be GEM Ferret Care Group.
It is not to say that where we are a present is totally wrong, or the rescue and re-homing that has happened in the past and is happening now is of no consequence to the club, it is more a reminder to those who were there and a raised awareness by those of us who were not as to why the group was formed in the first place. I realise that we have moved away from some of those ideals but I feel that we should stay closer to some of them. We need to be firmer with people who have unwanted litters, yes we can help re-home them but they need to support us by keeping the ferrets until we are ready or providing funding to help. At the PR events our main aim is to promote the welfare of ferrets, to correct misconceptions and to assist in the good care and well being of the animals we love. If in the course of this we have someone who is seriously interested in becoming a ferret owner then we can give them the details of members who re-home – if they follow it up they are serious – the onus is on them. We can also be reached by people who are in need of help and advice – we will not turn our backs on a ferret in need but we will exercise caution in overstretching the resources we have. We have many contacts with established rescues who are willing to support us in this. We can all do our bit and still keep the values that were established for the group.
GEM was created because some of the existing ferret organisations were not putting ferrets first – hence our motto: Ferrets First and Foremost. We had several objectives: to educate the public about ferrets in general, to give displays and demonstrations at shows etc., to re-unite lost ferrets with their owners, to put people in touch with ferret-friendly vets, to provide the use of vasectomised hobs, to offer boarding for ferrets when their owners went away if we felt able to, and to supply information and recommend further reading about ferret care. We did not discriminate between pet, show and working ferrets – most of our ferrets were all three – and we often put people with working ferrets in touch with people who had a rabbit problem, or found ferrets for people who wanted them. We helped each other by sourcing and sharing ferret food and accoutrements, often at discounted prices. Most importantly, we wanted to enjoy our ferrets and help other people enjoy theirs.
What we were not, and never intended to be, was a ferret rescue organisation. That job was simply too big for what was essentially a small club with relatively few active members. We did not seek to ask members to be more active than they felt comfortable doing, and if all they did was pay their membership and get a newsletter, that was fine. If individual members wanted to rescue ferrets (and several did) then that was their own personal decision and nothing to do with GEM, being totally outside the remit of this club. We founder members had seen too many ferret clubs come badly unstuck by venturing into the huge world of animal rescue. If, however, money was needed to assist a member with their ferrets, rescued or not, eg. for veterinary care, GEM was always open to approach.
It is in my opinion that the club should continue to steer clear of rescue and re-homing if it is to retain its integrity. GEM has always firmly refused to take in unwanted litters of kits, or unwanted adult ferrets for that matter: there are already organisations with plenty of money, resources and manpower to deal with that task in a way that we could never match. GEM is not a dustbin for ferrets – GEM aims to help, but in a way that is suitable for its size. If it individual members want to take on rescue and re-homing, then they do so as individuals, and should not expect to use the club’s name e.g. when setting rules and conditions under which they will allow people to ‘adopt’ ferrets. Nor should they expect GEM to change and become identical to organisations that do rescue and re-home ferrets: GEM was conceived to be something different.
This is not to degrade the fine work that individuals do with their rescue and re-homing, but to emphasise that this is their choice to do this. They are not rescuing ferrets on behalf of GEM, and this work should be conducted without using GEM’s name, or GEM’s presence at shows as a shop window; nor should GEM’s resources be interpreted as being on call for rescuing and re-homing ferrets that have been taken on a private venture.
Most worryingly, there has been a suggestion that GEM’s membership fee should be raised. We have always kept the fee low so that we could encourage membership, because every member is a voice for ferrets. We do not want to price ourselves out of the reach of people with low incomes. GEM is solvent and that is all it needs to be.