Escaped Cheetah Isn’t A Cheetah At All! When Rescuers Learn The Truth…CHA-CHING $$$

Every state has different laws about what animals civilians can and cannot own. Some states flatly say that it is illegal to put into captivity any animal that has been captured in the wild.

Others spell it out in more detail, saying which animals and how many can be kept and for how long.

Almost without fail however, state laws state that owning large wild felines and canines is illegal. They simply are too much of a liability to ever allow in private settings.

No matter how well-trained a big cat or wild canine may seem to be, its wild genes are always there. Waiting to explode with no warning.

We’ve all see the videos of perfectly trained lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) suddenly attacking their trainer. Oftentimes in full view of audiences and cameras. Most wild animals that are living as household pets are not well-trained at all. And thus, much more dangerous than a loaded gun in a room full of toddlers. Accidents waiting to happen.

Much of the time, it’s illegal to own hybrids created by uneducated folks who keep captive wild animals to breed to domesticated ones. Wolf-hybrids, for instance, are illegal to own in many states, and in almost all states must be sterilized.

It is usually illegal for veterinarians to provide care for any wild animal or hybrid that is in a private home. A Catch-22 when trying to get a hybrid spayed or neutered to adhere to local law. 

All of the above is why when citizens began calling the police department of Reading, Pennsylvania to report that they had seen a cheetah running wild in the streets, folks got a bit anxious.

A wild animal is always potentially dangerous, but one that’s been held in captivity can be especially dangerous. They will usually not run from humans, but instead may run towards them, creating panic. And, faced with a panic situation, there’s never any way to know how an animal will react.

So, police hit the streets combing the area for a big spotted kitty. There had been so many calls, they had no doubt that one was indeed there.

Meanwhile, back at the station, computers hummed as records were searched for records of someone who might have a license to own a big cat. There were none.

Eventually, it was spotted (no pun intended) in an area that was surrounded by officers. It was rounded up and carried to the Animal Rescue League of Berks County.

At that time, they were told that although the cat was indeed spotted, could run very fast and was from Africa, it was not a cheetah as reported. What they had caught was an African Serval. 

Keeping the Serval legally would have required an exotic animal license. But, no records were found of a license being granted, and no one came to claim her.

It was if someone had just dropped her out of nowhere, but it was concluded that she was being kept illegally. Most likely as part of a breeding program.

Although it’s illegal to keep a Serval, it is legal almost everywhere to keep the offspring of a serval cat bred to a housecat, a breed known as the Savannah. 

Because of the high price of Savannah cats and the hoops and red tape required to keep one legally, they fond that the African serval could have fetched up to $30,000 on the black market. Cha Ching!

No doubt it was the dollar signs in their eyes that kept the uneducated owners from realizing the risk involved in owning a serval. Not only the risk of losing their purchase price, or having to pay huge fines, but the liability involved if their cat got loose and injured someone.

No matter how gentle and sweet a wild animal may seem to be, they should never be trusted completely. Ever. Period. Certainly not with an untrained handler who does not have the proper education to understand the temperament and foibles of a wild animal being kept in confinement. 

Someone got lucky this time around. This serval is around 1 to 2 years old and had been declawed. According to the Rescue League’s interim executive, Tom Hubric, she showed signs of domestication. “She kind of behaves like a very aggressive but very friendly domestic cat.”

She injured no one on her big adventure running loose around Reading. But, the story could have ended far differently. Left on her own for very long, her feral nature would have popped to the forefront and she would have returned to being the hunter she had been in the wild.

Joel Ovalle, owner of Exotic Fish & Pets, told WFMZ, “That’s a cat that is not going to live off of Friskies cat food; it’s going to need a meat diet.” He also stressed his concern about the legalities of owning exotic animals.

The beautiful cat was taken by the Animal Rescue League to a big cat facility where she would be cared for.

Hubric added, “They are going to use her for community outreach and education, to go to schools and various events to promote the importance of why you should not own one of these animals.

He adds that it’s understandable that someone would want to own her, “She is just such a magnificent animal and she has captivated everyone who has seen her.” However, it’s just not worth the risk.

We’re glad this beauty was captured before she had a chance to harm herself or someone else. And, we’re equally glad that she’s going to be spreading the word about the dangers of not following the law when it comes to owning an animal that wasn’t meant to be owned.

Source: NTD TV

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Bobbye Hudspeth

Written by Bobbye Hudspeth

Bobbye Hudspeth is a freelance writer living in a little cabin on a creek in North Alabama. She shares her mini-farm with two mini dachshunds, two cats and two fantail pigeons. She is involved in animal rescue and is currently writing a book on combining aerobics and the pool.

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