2006_03_18_ferret.jpg A few months ago Joe Serrano found a ferret in the apartment of a recently deceased tenant in the building on West 173rd Street where he is a superintendent.

Although it is illegal to keep ferrets as pets in New York City, Serrano named the little bugger Mico and kept it with him in the basement apartment he shares with a man named Francisco Vellmin. "The ferret used to ride through the neighborhood on Mr. Serrano's shoulder, according to people who watched them."

But then on Monday, Mico disappeared. And worse, on Wednesday a distraught Serrano saw an older man he knew walking with a familiar looking ferret. According to his brother Martin he said "Why do you have that? That's mine" and "'demanded that they give the animal back."

The other man refused and, along with two or three other men, proceeded to beat, stomp, and kick Serrano to a bloody pulp.

"They was kicking him in his face," neighbor Freddie Núñez said. "His face was full of blood. When he got up, he was saying, 'My little animal, my little animal.'"

Serrano is currently in the hospital with "critical injuries" and may "suffer brain damage." So far none of the three or four assailants have been arrested. We hope they get 'em.

Ferret photo from telavet's flickr stream.