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African cats may still be allowed in Maple Ridge

Kelly Allen hopes council amends the new bylaw to allow for domestic serval cats, like Duma. - Tim Fitzgerald/The News
Kelly Allen hopes council amends the new bylaw to allow for domestic serval cats, like Duma.
— image credit: Tim Fitzgerald/The News

Leopard-like cats originating out of Africa could be legal in Maple Ridge if staff likes the idea and can find the right words to add to the Animal Control Licencing Bylaw.

On Tuesday, council approved a motion allowing staff to see if ownership of serval cats can be legalized, while giving final approval to the new bylaw, which raises annual registration fees for owners of aggressive dogs.

Serval cat owners, though, may not want to get their hopes up.

After researching the topic, bylaws staff may recommend accommodating them in the bylaw. Serval cats originate out of central Africa, but have been bred in captivity as pets for several generations.

“Depending what [staff] may come back with, we may do what they asked, we may not,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin Wednesday.

“We’re going to look and we’re going to listen to them and we’re going to go from there.”

The motion included an order of non-enforcement against owners of serval cats, until the bylaw has been changed, so owners don’t have to worry about having their animals seized.

“What they’re saying is, they’re going to make it legal,” said Rick White, a Maple Ridge serval cat owner.

White said because the serval cat, about the size of a bobcat, isn’t the same animal as a house cat, different language must be found for the bylaw.

White was happy with council’s response, providing it’s followed through. “Until it’s actually put in law … it would make us happy.”

Allowing serval cats goes against the advice of the B.C. SPCA, which says there are enough domestic cats looking for homes. The SPCA also consider servals to be wild cats.

But White says domestic servals have been bred in captivity for generations and are proposing that third-generation, captive-born servals be allowed.

White takes his pet out and about regularly in public, including stores that allow pets.

“There have been no instances of these cats attacking people.

“People pet our cats. It’s not just my cat. It’s other people’s cats as well. They’re like a dog, very sociable.

“We feel confident that is a new breed of cat, the domestic serval, versus the wild serval.”

He says White Rock is first to include servals in with domestic cats. He estimates there are about 200 serval cats in B.C., with about seven of those in Maple Ridge.

Under the new Animal Control Bylaw, given final reading Tuesday, people with dogs deemed aggressive will have to pay $200 for a yearly licence, considerably more than that charged for a normal dog. The owner of a spayed or neutered dog only has to pay $25 a year if they renew before Jan. 31. Seniors over 65 also will get a 50-per-cent break, bringing it down to $12.50.

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