I’m referring to the ownership of a serval by an individual living in Pennsylvania, USA. Is it legal? The answer is NO, unless you have a permit. I would take issue with the way the Pennsylvania law is written on the subject. I have found a lack of clarity when researching the legality of ownership of exotic species in America. In this instance, I’m told that more than one Pennsylvania statute (Act) covers the state’s laws regarding the possession and ownership of exotic pets.
Section 2961 of “Title 34 Pa.C.S.A. Game. Chapter 29. Special Licenses and Permits. Subchapter D. Permits Relating to Wildlife”, states that exotic wildlife includes BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO: “all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves and any crossbreed of these animals which have similar characteristics in appearance or features”. Note that means wild cat hybrids. Therefore, high filial Savannah cats fall within this law.
So, the PA law provides some examples of what they consider to be exotic wildlife and it is quite a skimpy. The serval is not mentioned. But we have to believe that it falls under the definition of exotic wildlife in this instance and as such, you need to apply for a permit to possess a serval under section 2963 “Exotic wildlife possession permits”. And under 2962 (c)(1) it is unlawful for any person to: “Possess purchase or receive exotic wildlife, without first securing a permit to possess exotic wildlife issued under this section or regulations pertaining to this section”.
A violation is a summary offence of the third degree. No doubt there will be pretty strict rules on obtaining a permit in terms of your ability to look after a serval properly which will include your facilities, funding and knowledge.
Online, Newsweek, reported on 11 December 2017, the escape of yet another serval from a home in Pennsylvania. There have been numerous serval escapes over the years because they are just not suited to living inside a typical human home. And these people don’t have other facilities such as an enclosure or many acres of land bounded by a very high fence. The Newsweek also states that African servals are illegal to own in Pennsylvania unless the individual has obtained a required license “and two-year-experience requirement to own exotic animal”.
Tellingly, they state that according to the PA Fish and Game Commission, no one has a required license to own a serval. They referred to “in the county” which I find baffling because we are talking about a state-wide law.
Below are some more articles on servals.