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"Wild" Savannah cat roams New Jersey suburb

Recently, the residents in a New Jersey suburb watched with surprise as what seemed to be a leopard or other wildcat roamed around their neighborhood.

In fact, the cat was a Savannah, a cross between a domesticated breed and a wild African serval cat. Police located the cat after concerned residents called about it, but the police found out that the cat's owners usually kept the cat indoors. Police describe the cat as healthy and friendly. The police also implied that the animal had no history of animal bites, saying there had been no incidents with the cat since it arrived in the neighborhood.

While other states require those who wish to keep a Savannah as a pet to have special permission to do so, under New Jersey law, anyone may keep a Savannah as a pet just as they would a dog or other common domesticated animal.

Nevertheless, animal control officials warn that Savannah cats always have a bit of a wild streak in them and can exhibit "destructive" behavior as they age. Many people abandon Savannahs to animal shelters when the cats grow, perhaps because they no longer feel that they can care for them.

While the police seemed not to see it as an issue, this Savannah's owners have allowed the cat to roam free on several occasions, prompting several neighbors mistakenly to report seeing a wildcat. The owners thereby technically violated a local ordinance against allowing pets to roam.

New Jersey law may allow its citizens to keep unusual pets without a special permit; however, owners still must be responsible for these animals. If an animal like a Savannah cat were to bite a passerby, it would subject the owners to liability for the victim's injuries.

Source: Pawnation.com, "Exotic African cat prowling New Jersey neighborhood," Kelli Bender, Sept. 27, 2012

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