Ferret fanciers will be happy to know their furry friends could become legal under a revised animal control ordinance.

The Salt Lake County Commission informally gave the green light Monday to several suggestions to revise the ordinance proposed by David Flagler, the county's new director of animal services.A public hearing will be scheduled by the animal services department once a final version is ready. After that, the changes will go to the commission.

If the updated ordinance is adopted, ferrets would be considered "exotic animals," much like hedgehogs or other animals not indigenous to the United States. Owners who take a class to learn how to care for a ferret could get a license.

Ferrets apparently were banned because they were thought to be a rabies risk, but they can be vaccinated just like cats or dogs.

Ferrets that have had their rabies shots and are properly looked after "pose no health or safety risk to the community," Flagler said.

Currently, owning a ferret is illegal in Salt Lake County except Taylorsville. However, many people own ferrets and openly advertise them for sale.

The proposal sounds like good news to Arlene Evans, owner of The Pet Center in Salt Lake City, who said she gets requests for ferrets every day.

"I'm all in favor of legalizing them. Ferrets make wonderful little pets," she said. "There are a lot of pet stores that have been selling them anyway. We have not because we're obeying the ordinance and because we wouldn't want them (the county) to come in and take the ferrets and put them down. It wouldn't be fair to an animal."

Evans did question why prospective ferret owners would have to take a class while other pet owners do not. "Classes are good, but I think they should be voluntary."

Other suggested ordinance changes include:

- Inspection and licenses for animal exhibits to ensure that animals are treated humanely and that cages for wild animals are secure to protect spectators.

- Voluntary requirements for cats that go outdoors to be on leashes unless they are neutered and licensed. Currently, there is a huge cat overpopulation problem and only 1 percent of cats taken to the Humane Society Shelter are claimed by their owners. About 50 percent of dogs are reclaimed.

- A plan to give pet owners a voucher for $15 when licensing their animals that could be redeemed by having their animals spayed or neutered.

- Multiyear pet licenses, which would reduce the department's administrative costs and still ensure that animals get rabies shots.

- A provision allowing immediate impoundment of a nuisance animal while a court case is pending to prevent neighbors from having to put up with problems during drawn-out legal proceedings.

Commissioners suggested that the county's planning and zoning department oversee the maximum number of animals a household can have, so that portion of the ordinance covering that topic was removed from the animal control department's authority.