NY Serval seized in cruelty case of drug convict Louis Pinto

Exotic cheetah-like cat seized in cruelty case

 

By MICHAEL RISINIT

THE JOURNAL NEWS

 

 

(Original publication: November 1, 2007)

MAHOPAC – An emaciated exotic cat seized from a squalid home apparently had free rein of his surroundings and no one to care for him.

 

 

"What we’re finding now is in its feces, there’s a lot of Styrofoam," said Ken Ross, chief of the SPCA of Westchester’s Humane Law Enforcement division. "It was eating whatever it could. It was extremely hungry."

 

 

Ross said yesterday that the pet serval, an African spotted cat, probably was foraging among the boxes, papers and other trash littering the inside of 21 Teakettle Spout Road. A photograph shows a mat of feces covering the home’s off-white carpet, part of what the SPCA termed "wall-to-wall filth."

 

 

Louis Pinto, 54, who is on parole after a drug conviction, was charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, in the serval case. The charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail, a fine or both.

 

 

Pinto wasn’t home Sunday when Carmel police arrived. Ross said a neighbor walking his dog spotted the 9-year-old cat when the feline threw itself at a window. Dogs are listed as a main threat to servals on the Web site of the Florida-based Big Cat Rescue Corp.

 

 

"It didn’t look real healthy," Ross said, explaining why the dog walker called police.

 

 

Carmel officers requested assistance from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the SPCA. A DEC spokeswoman yesterday said a 2005 state law "prohibits the possession of servals as pets." Those already owning a serval then could apply for a permit, DEC’s Wendy Rosenbach said, but that opportunity no longer exists.

 

 

She couldn’t say whether Pinto possessed a permit.

 

 

Ross said Pinto was found Sunday in front of a store in Mahopac. He is due in Town Court on Nov. 19. Telephone messages left at his home yesterday weren’t returned.

 

 

Serval cats look like small cheetahs. The wildcats are native to central and southern Africa, where they prey on smaller mammals and birds. In captivity, they can live to about 20 years old. On the Internet, a breeder in Kentucky offers male kittens for $3,000, females for $3,500.

 

 

Ross said he didn’t know whether this cat was the same one Pinto reported missing in 2001. It was found hunting Canada geese and alarming residents of Heritage Hills condominiums in Somers.

 

 

Pinto signed the cat seized on Sunday over to the SPCA, which is trying to place the animal in a zoo or animal sanctuary.

 

 

The serval wasn’t the first large feline to lead Pinto to legal trouble. In 1998, DEC officers removed Dax, a 5-month-old domesticated bobcat, from his home after obtaining a court order.

 

 

In 2002, Pinto, his wife, Janet, and their neighbors were charged with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana after authorities seized marijuana with a street value estimated at $1 million from their homes.

 

 

Pinto, according to the state Department of Correctional Services records, served almost two years in prison in that case before he was released on parole in July 2005.

 

 

Reach Michael Risinit at mrisinit@lohud.com or 845-228-2274.

 

http://www.nyjournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071101/NEWS04/711010393

 

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