HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Big cat rights activist and star of the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” took to Facebook Monday asking people to report the owner of a local exotic pet store to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Carole Baskin, who rose to international fame for her campaign to bring down exotic animal park owner Joe Exotic, says the owners of 256 Exotics in Huntsville should be issued a citation by the USDA.
The owner of the pet store off of Winchester Road originally reported the pair of African servals missing on Facebook last week. That post has since been removed, but an employee at the store confirmed to News 19 that the cats were still missing as of Wednesday.
According to Marianne Hudson with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, African servals are exotic animals that are roughly the size of a coyote, are gold in color with black spots, and have long limbs. Hudson says the animals are native to Africa but are legal to be owned and traded in Alabama.
Baskin says Alabama’s laws regarding exotic pets need to change.
“The only regulation that Alabama has is to say if the animal is a dog or cat, and if it can contract rabies it has to be vaccinated against rabies with an approved rabies vaccine,” Baskin said. “Well, there is no approved rabies vaccine for any of the exotic cat species. They’ve only been tested in domestic cats and dogs.”
Baskin is the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for exotic cats in Florida. She says that animals like African servals need to be in sanctuaries and not kept as pets.
“It’s not that these animals belong in cages. It’s just that it’s not legal to release them because they’re not native to the US. They’re native to Africa,” Baskin said. “And since these cats were born in the US they can’t be released to Africa. So they’re stuck in a cage for the rest of their lives. But at least if they go to a legitimate sanctuary you’re not adding to the problem, as they are in these breeding facilities.”
News 19 went to 256 Exotics on Wednesday, but an employee at the store said the owners of the servals did not want to comment. We also reached out to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to see if they had received any reported sightings of the servals, but we did not receive a response.