Well-behaved ferrets only after cash

They're the furry fund-raisers who are desperate to ferret out your cash - all in the name of a good cause. Dogs on leads are a familiar site along the seafront at Lowestoft, but yesterday species from the canine world were outnumbered by a group of lively ferrets for a charity walk to raise cash for the Suffolk Befriending Scheme.

They're the furry fund-raisers who are desperate to ferret out your cash - all in the name of a good cause.

Dogs on leads are a familiar site along the seafront at Lowestoft, but yesterday species from the canine world were outnumbered by a group of lively ferrets for a charity walk to raise cash for the Suffolk Befriending Scheme.

The idea for the event came after ferrets were taken to a drop-in session for the scheme, which provides help to people with learning disabilities.

They proved such a popular attraction that the plan to draft them into the charity's fund-raising efforts was born and yesterday they put their best paws forward in a name of a good cause.

About a dozen of the small mammals donned their best leads and were taken on a walk from the Claremont Pier to the South Pier as volunteers and those helped by the befriending scheme collected cash from intrigued onlookers.

Volunteer Robert Kinney, 60, was in control of five-year-old Caleb - one of 38 ferrets he and his wife Jacqueline keep at their home in Gunton, Lowestoft.

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Mr Kinney, who began keeping ferrets about five years ago, said: “It all started out when we went to Sandringham and they had a ferret display. The wife fell in love with them and it snowballed from there, and we started to rescue them.

“They are just so nice and make lovely pets. They have the same intelligence as cats and dogs, although they won't roll over for you. They do take over your life.”

Ferrets have been domesticated for thousands of years and are regarded as making excellent, although challenging pets. They usually live from six to 10 years and are highly intelligent animals with a very social nature.

The ferret is a member of the Musteliade family, which includes the mink, weasel, otter, skunk, badger, wolverine and European polecat.

Getting her first experience of ferret walking was 11-year-old Victoria Roe, who said: “It was really good fun. It was like walking a dog, but without a dog at the end of the lead.”

Victoria's mother, Christine Roe, is the volunteer co-ordinator for the Suffolk Befriending Scheme, and said she hope the ferret walk would be held again.

She added: “This is the first time we have done ferret walking as a fund-raising event. The ferrets have been brought along to our drop-in sessions and they proved popular so we thought we would go from there. We'd quite like to make it an annual event.”

The ferret walkers were also sponsored and the total amount raised will be worked out over the next few days.

The charity was set up about 18 years ago to give people with learning opportunities to go out with volunteers and enjoy a range of activities on a one-to-one basis.

t The scheme has centres across Suffolk, including Lowestoft, and for further details, call 01502 711070 or email info@suffolkbefriendingscheme.org.uk

t For more information about keeping ferrets as pets, visit www.britishferretclub.co.uk or www.ferretcentral.org