Are servals legal in the UK?

Serval in an enclosure looking out forlornly
Serval in an enclosure looking out forlornly. This is in the USA. Photo: Michael
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It is legal for a UK citizen to own a serval PROVIDED they have a licence to do so. The law on individual citizens of the UK (as opposed to organisations) owning wild cat species including the serval is governed by two pieces of legislation (see below). The law regarding organisations such as sanctuaries and zoos owning wild animals is different.

  1. Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and;
  2. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) Order 2007.

The first (1) refers to the second (2) which provides a list of animals which are considered to be dangerous in the UK and which require a licence to own them. It is broken down into animal species including Felidae (the cat family). That section is shown below. As you can see, the serval is in the list.

Kinds of cat species considered dangerous in the UK and exceptions.
Kinds of cat species considered dangerous in the UK and exceptions. Image: MikeB. It is legal to reproduce UK legislation!.

Applying for a licence

I will briefly discuss applying for a licence to keep a wild animal in the UK. You apply to your local council. You will need to apply to own a serval. Other animals for which you need a licence would include primates, wild dogs e.g. wolves, certain pigs e.g. wild boar and marsupials.

As I understand it, you will have to convince the authorities that you were able to care adequately for a serval in terms of funding, feeding, facilities, general knowledge in the caretaking of a wild species and so on. There will no doubt be regular inspections, probably annually. In addition, there will be a fee to pay annually I suspect. I don’t expect the licence to be rubberstamped. There will be demands and I expect them to be quite steep.

P.S. As a matter of interest, in the USA, there are 3 different approaches to the ownership of wild cat species depending upon which state you live:(1) you can own a wild cat species without licence and without interference by the state (2) you cannot own a wild cat at all and (3) a compromise, which is you require a licence with inspections which is what occurs in the UK.

A further point that I would like to make is that I find the UK law very strange. For example, to allow people to own the black-footed cat without a licence is ridiculous in my opinion. This is the fiercest wild cat species of them all. To own one without facilities would be madness in my opinion. And there would be negative conservation issues as well.

RELATED: Fierce black-footed cat – the most successful feline predator

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will do my best to provide a prompt and accurate answer.

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Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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