Loretta Sanchez Cites Los Alamitos Serval Cats Incident in Push for Wildlife Ownership Ban

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In light of three serval cats, who resemble small cheetahs, escaping from a Los Alamitos apartment recently, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) today renewed her call for a federal law prohibiting private possession of big cats except at facilities like accredited zoos. "This incident in Orange County is alarming and underscores the need for better regulation of private ownership of big cats," Sanchez says in a statement from her office.

After bobcat spottings were reported around the 4100 block of Farquhar Avenue in Los Alamitos Saturday night, a game warden and officers from Long Beach Animal Care Services, which serves Los Alamitos, captured a serval cat.

It was wearing a collar with the owner's name and address, and when officers went to the apartment in the 4400 block of Howard Avenue, they were told two other serval cats were missing. One was found nearby and the other returned to the apartment on its own.

The cats were taken to an animal sanctuary, while their previous owner was issued a citation from the state Department of Fish and Game for owning the animals. Officials also recommended the district attorney file three misdemeanor counts of possession of a restricted animal against the ex-cat owner, who would face a fine with a conviction.

Incidents involving illegally kept wild animals are popping up all over the country. Sanchez's office pointed to 49 animals being slaughtered--including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon--after the owner of an unlicensed wildlife preserve in Zanesville, Ohio. let them loose in October 2011 before killing himself.

Sanchez and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) this year introduced H.R. 4122, the "Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act," which aims to curtail "an alarming number of wild cats [that] are being bred, sold, and even kept as domestic pets in the U.S.," and thereby threatening public safety. Fortunately, no one was harmed in Los Alamitos.

"Big cats are not pets," Sanchez observed. "They require high-quality facilities and proper care. Orange County's first responders and community members were put in unnecessary danger as they responded to this call."

Sanchez says she is seeking bipartisan support for her legislation in the upcoming congressional session. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

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