Are servals legal in Washington state?

Yes, servals are legal in Washington state for individuals to own and possess. You don’t need a permit either on my assessment. This is because under Washington law (statute) RCW 16.30.010, servals are not listed as a “potentially dangerous wild animal” and neither are they listed as a ‘deleterious exotic animal’ under WAC 220-640-200 The only cats which are listed as ‘potentially dangerous wild animals’ are: lions, tigers, captive-bred cougars, jaguars, cheetahs, leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards. The law makes it clear that these are the only animals in the Felidae (cat) family considered to be potentially dangerous.

Servals not listed as a potentially dangerous animal under Washington state law
Servals not listed as a potentially dangerous animal under Washington state law. Click it for a larger image. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Therefore, it isn’t only servals which are legal in Washington state. You can include caracals and all the other wild cat species of which there are 37 except those mentioned above as legal in this state. You can see a full list of wild cat species by clicking on this link. The serval and the caracal are the 2 most popular medium-sized wild cat species which tend to be socialised and domesticated to become ‘pets’ of a sort in America. My advice is please don’t do it 😎. If you decide to acquire a serval please do a lot of research beforehand to ensure that you are in the correct place in terms of time, disposable income and temperament to discharge caregiving duties successfully over the lifetime of the animal.

The that are animals classified as potentially dangerous cannot be owned or possessed or bred under the same statute but under a different section: RCW 16.30.030.

For completeness, if a person was in possession of a potentially dangerous animal before July 22, 2007, they were obliged to maintain certain records such as veterinary records and to have produced those records to an animal control or law enforcement authority upon their request. This implies that the statute that I have referred to came into force in July 22, 2007.

Out of interest, I did telephone the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Today Tuesday, June 7, 2022 while the Department was open but sadly nobody was present to answer my query which was to confirm what I have stated above.

Notwithstanding that, I am confident that my interpretation of the law is accurate.

Comment: the law, in my view, is out of step with reality and what happens in practice. In practice servals have to be kept inside the owner’s home. This is far too small an area and they want to escape. They do escape. When the escape they are sometimes shot by the authorities because they are considered to be dangerous. The serval is a medium-sized wild cat species. They are quite intimidating if you stand next to one. If they are not socialised properly and if they are provoked or become defensively aggressive, they could certainly harm somebody. I would therefore consider them to be potentially dangerous. I have been in an enclosure in close contact with a couple of servals and I’m quite laid-back about things. I found them intimidating. And these were semi-domesticated.

Below are some more pages on animal laws.

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