CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio (WCMH) — Investigators with the Ohio Department of Agriculture are trying to identify the owner of an exotic cat that was shot and killed by a Fairfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Sunday.
The incident occurred in the Jefferson Farms subdivision southeast of Canal Winchester. The animal was identified by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a Serval, a species of wild cat native to Africa.
Jim Zuber says he and a neighbor first saw the Serval Saturday.
“It just creeped along between my bushes and the house here and it literally came up to the front door,” Zuber said. “So we cautiously stayed out in the front yard as it went around the side of the house.”
Zuber said the Serval had a collar on but clearly exhibited wild instincts.
“It was kind of creeping towards us and as we took a step backward, it would take steps toward us and when we made noise to shush it away, it hunched back in a position to leap forward,” he said.
The Serval resurfaced in this neighborhood Sunday when it allegedly attacked a dog. Deputies responded and shot the cat when it appeared in an “attack stance.”
In October of 2011, deputies in Muskingum County shot and killed 49 wild animals that had been set free by their owner. Since then, Ohio has much tougher laws requiring owners of exotic animals to microchip and register their animals with the state.
A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Agriculture said no one in Fairfield County has a state permit for a Serval. Under state law, it’s a first-degree misdemeanor to not have a permit and a fifth-degree felony for allowing an exotic animal to escape.
Zuber hopes investigators get to the bottom of it.
“You know, if you can’t come out of your house, with a pet or without, my gosh – that’s ridiculous,” Zuber said. “Because this thing would have attacked an adult. I mean, when you seen this thing rear back, it had no if ands or buts of how it was going to deal with an adult, let alone a child.”