The B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raised serious concerns about serval cats being kept as pets.
In a letter to the Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director, Leanne Salter, presented at the board’s regular meeting on Feb. 14, B.C. SPCA’s senior director Sara Dubois stated that the society has been seriously campaigning to restrict ownership of exotic pets under the controlled alien species regulation. But gaps continue to remain in the list of prohibited species.
“We expected that those gaps would be closed over time, through amendments to the regulation,” said Dubois. “As an example, and one that recently hit close to your community, we anticipated that serval cats would be prohibited by now, given that they regularly escape, can injure people and pets, and suffer from serious health conditions in private homes.”
Dubois was referring to the two serval cats that escaped from their pens in the Corcan-Meadowood area near Qualicum Beach last October. A male killed a domestic cat before it was captured. The second cat, a female, killed several of the neighbour’s birds before it was recaptured.
There was also a seizure of 13 servals in distress near Kamloops in 2019 that led to a provincial advocacy campaign in which 8,000 residents called for a B.C.-wide ban. To date, Dubois said, nothing has changed and she added the B.C. SPCA has been trying to convince the province to include servals and other exotic species on the CAS list for more than a decade.
“Serval kittens can sell for up to and over $10,000 online, and the B.C. SPCA is aware of several serval breeders on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in B.C.,” said Dubois. “The recent escape of two servals in the Regional District of Nanaimo was shocking for the community, but sadly it was not surprising to us. Servals regularly escape from breeders and owners, and are often hit by cars or never found. Despite being born in captivity, these exotic cats are not domestic animals, as domestication takes thousands of years of breeding to achieve.”
Dubois said the SPCA is very concerned about public safety and also for the welfare of the exotic animals, as many owners do not have the capacity to care for and control serval cats, which may even injure their owners.
Local animal bylaws are key to reducing community risk from exotic animals, both from a public safety and public health and disease perspective, she said.
Last November, Salter presented a motion which notice has been given requesting staff to prepare a report on options to ban, or if that’s not possible, regulate exotic animals including serval cats in Electoral Area F.
“The B.C. SPCA strongly supports the RDN’s exploration of ways to limit exotic animals in your community. We also strongly advocate for a [Union of B.C. Municipalities] motion to bring this issue back to the province for immediate action to ban serval cats across B.C., given a patchwork of local bylaws will not protect communities and the welfare of exotic animals,” said Dubois.
Salter informed the RDN board that she intends to come up with a resolution regarding this issue at the next RDN board meeting.