Serval is back on home turf
By Nancy McCleary
Apollo, the serval found in a back yard on Gillingham Drive last week, is home with his owner who now faces a $1,000 fine for violating a county ordinance.
But Suzie Huening, owner of Lynxotic Cattery on Lullwater Drive, is appealing the penalty and has asked that officials review the ordinance that prohibits ownership of the wildcat and other exotic animals in Cumberland County.
“We will oblige her in doing that,” said Sue Nicholson, director of Cumberland County Animal Control.
Huening said someone broke into an enclosure that houses her animals during Memorial Day weekend and let Apollo and Agapi, a Savanna cat, loose.
Servals are native to Africa and are mated with domestic cats to breed Savannas, a hybrid cat. Servals are known as the “poor man’s cheetah.” Savanna cats resemble the spotted servals and are larger than domestic cats.
Apollo was captured by an animal control officer June 5 after the cat was found prowling in a fenced yard in the Arran Lakes West subdivision.
Agapi is still missing, Huening said, but she has received reports of sightings of the cat from around the county.
Nicholson said Sunday that it was for Apollo’s health that he was returned to Huening.
Huening said servals and Savannas hunt the same prey as domestic cats. The largest prey would be rabbits, she said.
Huening, who began breeding Savannas in the county in the late 1990s, had established her business when the county adopted the exotic pet ordinance in 2000.
Nicholson has said any breeder or owner of an exotic pet who was properly licensed when the ordinance was passed was allowed to keep the animals. Owners must have a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nicholson said she can find no such documents relating to Huening.
“She does not have a USDA license in order to be maintaining the animals,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson’s primary concern, she said, is that there is no approved rabies vaccination that has been proven effective for exotic pets and their offspring.
Huening said she has taken steps to increase security for the animals. Savannas are high-dollar cats that are becoming a popular target for thieves, she said.
“On a good note,” she said, “I’ve had lots of neighbors drop by, introduce themselves and tell me they’re looking for the cat.”
Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-4848, ext. 568.
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