MASAI MARA, KENYA – DECEMBER 12: A Serval walks through grassland on Dec 12, 2007 in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) Photo: Getty Images, Dan Kitwood / 2008 Getty Images
DEP seizes wild African cat from Bethel resident
Vinti Singh, Staff Writer
Published: 10:28 p.m., Thursday, October 7, 2010
BETHEL — An African serval cat that was living in a Bethel basement is “doing great” in its new Florida home, its new owner said Thursday.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection had seized the cat from the house at 19 Pleasant St. in June because it is illegal to possess African servals in Connecticut.
The DEP learned of the African serval when a Bethel resident called the DEP on June 10 to report that Frank Monda, 49, who lives in the house, had a “tiger” in his basement, according to DEP investigative reports.
Two DEP officers went to Monda’s home on June 12 and spoke to a neighbor. One of the officers looked over Monda’s chain link fence and saw about 20 feet in the distance “the head of a feline, which he stated did not look like a domestic cat,” according to a DEP report.
Later the officer observed the feline head “sticking up from above an outcropping, in a fenced in area under a deck. The feline head and ears resembled a serval or savannah cat, both illegal to possess, but clearly was not a tiger.”
Officers requested to search the premises and they say they found a 15-year-old African serval cat in the backyard in an enclosure, which had a door leading to the basement.
Monda helped the officers put the cat into a transport cage and told officers the cat’s name was “Mia,” but he called her “Tiger” as a nickname.
The cat was transported to Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, where a veterinarian examined it and gave it the required vaccines to transport it out of state.
Monda contacted the DEP on June 14 to say he had found a facility in Fort Pierce, Fla., owned by Roger Newson, to take care of the cat.
Newson is licensed in Florida to possess African serval cats. Monda paid the $262 to transport the cat to Florida, the DEP report stated.
Newson has been caring for Mia since July 2.
“She hasn’t completely warmed up to me,” Newson said. “I have to be careful because if I turn around she’ll bite or scratch me. But at least she is living with other servals.”
Newson, who sits on the Feline Conservation Federation, owns two panthers and seven African servals.
“When a wild animal accepts you, it is a wonderful pet,” Newson said. “But it’s not for everyone. It requires training and commitment.”
Florida law requires a person to have 1,000 hours of training and one year of experience per exotic feline species to get a license to own that species.
Servals are common house pets, Newson said, but they tend to spray as they get older and require tiled living spaces that can be easily hosed down.
Monda was arrested June 10 on a charge of illegal possession of exotic species for having the Serval, he pleaded guilty, and paid an unspecified fine on June 21.
Monda could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Contact Vinti Singh at email@example.com or 203-731-3331.