Are ferrets dangerous?
June McNicholas takes a light-hearted look at Government statistics
Yet again this summer's ferret events were punctuated by this question from the public: 'Are ferrets dangerous?' Well, take heart here's some comfort from UK Government reports on causes of accidents that have required hospital treatment. The report provides a selection of findings that should help put the dangers of ferrets into perspective.
Statistically speaking, you may be far more likely to require medical treatment when tangling with a tea cosy than a ferret. Incidents involving this unseen menace rose by 85% in 2001 with a total of 37 people needing hospital treatment. Oddly, this source of injury is absent from the 2002/2003 figures. One would hope that this means the eradication of the more aggressive sub-species of tea cosy, but I confess to being sceptical. Nor is the tea cosy the only danger lurking on the dining table, the 165 accidents caused by place mats can only be seen as shocking since they were largely unprovoked. Add to these the number of hospital treatments as a consequence of loofahs and sponges (787) and toilet roll holders (329) and it is clear that even the bathroom cannot be seen as a safe haven for meditation. These figures become even more alarming in 2002/2003 with injuries involving loofahs and sponges rising by an alarming 12% to 882 accidents requiring hospital treatment, and a new statistic included in the survey reveals no fewer than 15,416 hospitalisations directly due to lavatories (excluding bidets which accounted for a further 123 injuries in their own right, and toilet rolls/toilet roll holders which accounted for an additional 841 cases).
However, even these disturbing numbers pale into insignificance when viewed against the major causes of concern revealed by the report. Accidents caused by trousers (N.B. no ferrets implicated) rose from 5137 to 5945 in 2001 and to of 9431 in 2002. Add to these the proportion of injuries by zips and the figure becomes inflated by a further 738 cases needing hospitalisation. (And in case the very thought brings tears to your eyes, be cautious about reaching for a paper hanky as these themselves caused 1538 injuries that year). Other 'clothing related' injuries included an indication that socks and tights are advancing their position as a major cause of injury. In 2002 this menace claimed 13,428 victims as opposed to 10,773 in 2001. Injuries directly due to underwear were an unacceptable 451 last year, almost as many as the combinations (sorry, no pun intended) of figures for accidents through parachuting, hang-gliding and micro-lighting.
Wellington boots are a major feature in the lives of many ferret owners, especially working ferreters. However, despite warnings that 2001 figures had reached 5615 injuries, 2002/3 figures revealed a frightening increase of 26% to 7095 in 2002. We can but hope than none of us innocent souls were victims in these statistics.
In a possible attempt to 'massage' the statistics, the Government optimistically reported a drop in injuries caused by armchairs. On paper this reads as a reassuring decline of around 11% - but do not be fooled, the true number of innocent souls falling victim to armchairs and sofas was a staggering 16,662. This was one of the highest causes of accidents, even beating the number of injuries caused by vegetables which stands at a horrifying 13,132. Incidentally, this is more than ten times the number of injuries causes by chainsaws.
Even when not relaxing at home, there are many unseen hazards. Most people hate ironing, but have you considered that ironing may actively hate you? No fewer than 5330 people were injured by their pile of ironing (excluding that in washing baskets which saw off a further 2768 poor individuals).
The garden is no safer, it seems. Hammocks, so beloved of our ferrets, created 554 hospital cases in human users; the humble watering can another 739 cases, while the seemingly innocuous flower-pot was the cause of 5946 injuries. Nor can you rely on the telephone to reach help if you are injured. Over 11,000 people were injured by telephones last year with a further 472 by telephone accessories. Even assuming you did successfully telephone for help and reached hospital relatively intact, you should still be on the lookout for dangers. Well-wishers thinking of bringing flowers to your bedside would do well to reflect on the 800 hospital cases attributable to injuries caused by floral bouquets.
Other reported dangers are injuries from clothes baskets (3421), bird baths (311), false teeth (933) and leaves (1171).
We should perhaps congratulate the editor of Ferrets First for deciding to make it an on-line publication and therefore (hopefully) safer, as printed magazines caused 4371 injuries in 2001, making them 12 times more likely to harm you than a meat cleaver. Although this reduced to 3629 in 2003 we should not be lulled into a false sense of security by this decline, the envelopes they arrive in were classified separately and accounted for 1353 victims!
I hope this gives you some food for thought when the next person confronts you with accusations of keeping dangerous animals. And I promise every word is true.
Mind how you go!
Source: The Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System 2001 & 2003, Published by DTI