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African serval rescued after found roaming Reading streets

Wild cat illegal to own as pet in Pennsylvania

African serval rescued after found...

CUMRU TWP., Pa. - From the plains of Africa to the streets of Reading, a big cat has found itself far from its native environment.

An African serval was found roaming the city's streets around 5 p.m. Friday, prompting a call from police to the Animal Rescue League of Berks County for a "wild cheetah" on the loose in the 1000 block of Madison Avenue.

"We have had everything from monkeys to Nile crocodiles to, you know, mountain lions," said Tom Hubric, the ARL's interim executive director. "We've had some crazy calls over the years, so our staff really never knows what they're going to walk into."

The ARL's staff soon learned the animal wasn't a cheetah. It's a serval, which is a wild cat native to the African plains.

"The staff certainly was taken aback a bit by the fact that there was an African serval on the loose in the city," Hubric told 69 News. "She was very tame, very friendly. They simply put a leash on her and put her in a crate and brought her here to our facility [in Cumru Township]."

"It's something that's crazy, but it's something that I'm not surprised about," said Joel Ovalle, owner of Exotic Fish and Pets on the Fifth Street Highway in Muhlenberg Township.

Servals are illegal to own as a pet in Pennsylvania without a license, which isn't easy to come by, according to Hubric, who said obtaining one requires two years of experience working with someone who is already licensed to own a serval.

"We did check with [the Pennsylvania] Fish and Game [Commission]," Hubric said. "There is nobody in Berks County that has a current license to own an African serval, and we assume that's the reason why nobody came looking for her."

With the serval being declawed and good with people, even getting cozy with our camera, Hubric said it's obvious she was raised as a pet in someone's home, which can be a challenge.

"They are extremely high-maintenance to own," Hubric told 69 News. "They require an outdoor enclosure. They require a very specific diet. This is not something that the average citizen should own, because they just have very special requirements."

"The serval cat, that's a cat that is not going to live off of Friskies cat food," Ovalle said. "It's gonna need a meat diet."

The ARL said it wanted to hold off on publicizing the serval's rescue until she was safely on her way Wednesday from Berks County to a facility that has the experience to properly care for her.

"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."

Hubric estimated the serval's "street value" to be as much as $30,000.


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