Cincinnati Zoo takes in exotic cat after cocaine-fueled escape from police

‘I’d rather deal with a tiger.’
This serval came to the zoo in late January after it escaped his owner’s car during his owner’s arrest. (Source: WXIX)
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 5:29 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A serval is recovering at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens after a traumatic experience that left it drugged and injured earlier this year.

A serval is an exotic cat breed native to Africa. This one came to the zoo in late January after it escaped his owner’s car during his owner’s arrest.

As Cincinnati police were arresting the man in Oakley, the serval - named Amiry - jumped out of the man’s car and ran up a tree, according to Ray Anderson with Cincinnati Animal CARE.

“We got called in to get the cat out of the tree,” Anderson said.

Authorities initially described the Amiry as a leopard. Anderson says the Hamilton County Dog Warden deputies were mostly surprised.

“[They weren’t] sure what they were dealing with,” Anderson said. “Hindsight being 20/20, it probably would have involved a whole lot more people.”

Servals can grow to three times the size of a normal cat, weighing in at 20-40 lbs. They can also jump 7 ft. in the air.

It is illegal to own servals, Cincinnati Animal Care says.

Anderson says Amiry was 30-35 lbs. and was “not excited” to be removed from the tree. It wasn’t easy on either the serval or the rescuers.

“In the process of getting the cat out of the tree... obviously, the cat didn’t want to get out of the tree... and our officers were working really hard to make sure they didn’t lose the cat in the process... Yeah, the leg was broken in the process,” Anderson said.

Amiry was eventually rescued and officers called in an exotic cat expert to learn what to do next. The expert told the serval’s rescuers he didn’t know how they did it. Anderson says the expert told them, “’I’d rather deal with a tiger.’”

The medical staff at Cincinnati Animal CARE tested the serval’s physical health and worked on his leg. They also conducted a toxicology report.

“It did come back positive for cocaine,” Anderson said. “Now, we can’t say how the animal got the cocaine in the system. I don’t know if it was environmental or experimental.”

The Hamilton County Dog Warden conducted an investigation and considered charges.

“But everybody was very cooperative in this case, and we didn’t feel it was necessary,” Anderson said.

Cincinnati Animal Care says they wanted to get Amiry placed safely placed as quickly as possible and the fastest way to do that was to get his owner to relinquish the cat into Animal Care’s control without getting tied up in court.

The cat’s owner was cooperative and paid for its care until all ownership transfers were finalized, animal care officials said.

The Cincinnati Zoo took in the serval. A zoo spokesperson offered the following statement Tuesday:

“The serval has been receiving veterinary care in our Animal Health Center since he was brought here. He’s doing well, and the next step will be for our Cat Ambassador Program team to work with him and determine if he’s a good fit to be an ambassador animal. He will likely be behind the scenes for a while.”

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