My Turn: A missed opportunity to educate the public about serval cats

For the Monitor
Published: 9/16/2020 6:00:08 AM

As anxious people rejoiced when Spartacus the serval cat was found after his three day adventure upon escaping in Merrimack, I couldn’t help but be dismayed by the failure of New Hampshire Fish and Game to properly address the situation.

The posts and calls were out on social media that someone’s pet serval was missing, and thousands of people commented and posted their concern.

It is important to note it was mentioned that there was a permit to own the cat, but there the conversation ended where it should have gone much further.

See, in New Hampshire people are not supposed to own a serval as a pet. You need to be an exhibitor and have that permit, which is supposed to mean you are an educator regarding the animal and have the experience to do so. The serval should technically be called “captive wildlife,” not a pet.

The animal is supposed to remain captive and properly contained; they cannot be let free to roam. However, the damage was done and people now want one of their own, are intrigued by the big kitty, and are already asking if they can come to the owner’s house to play with Spartacus.

The exotic and wild animal trade is not a pretty picture. These animals are commodities for roadside zoos, unscrupulous breeders, and, of course, the people who want to own one fuels the demand in the first place.

Originally, the animals were taken from the wild, a practice which still happens today to replenish the supply and keep adding new ones to prevent inbreeding.

Servals are among the highest in demand of the exotic pet trade. Zoos and private breeders, where allowed, will breed the cats to sell into the system, legally or sometimes not quite so legal. Kittens are often taken from their mothers shortly after birth to become more human friendly to make supposedly better pets.

A serval cat, however, never really loses their wild nature and despises being locked up. They are notoriously known escape artists, and what happened in Merrimack is a classic example. When they see an opening, they will go.

Even though they are really cute, they can be dangerous around children and other animals – another reason why they are supposed to be contained and shouldn’t be pets.

The intent of being an exhibitor is to educate people about the animal and the dangers and struggles the species faces. It is an important opportunity to convey the right messaging. Here was the opportunity for the Fish and Game Department and the owner to publicly come out and explain why these cats do not make good pets. The same way you shouldn’t have a bobcat, tiger, or leopard in your house, the same goes for the serval.

It seems clear that some violations are most likely occurring with Spartacus, but don’t expect action or clarity from N.H. Fish and Game.

So now we have people wanting servals and thinking they are pets. Meanwhile, I will go to see the domestic house cats sitting alone, frightened, and scared in a shelter and do my best to find them loving homes. Cats not belonging to or yearning for another continent but ones that are right here, sitting in small cages, sometimes for years, waiting to be rescued.

Maybe we should do some news stories on them?

(Kristina Snyder lives in Chester.)


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Concord Monitor, recently named the best paper of its size in New England.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2020 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy