Are servals legal to own in Wisconsin?

You will need a licence to own a serval in the US state of Wisconsin. Furthermore, the serval must have been “legally obtained” (169.04. Possession of live wild animals). The law as stated below:

169.04. Possession of live wild animals

(1) Restrictions on possession.

(a) No person may possess any live wild animal unless the wild animal is legally obtained.

(b) No person may possess any live wild animal unless the person holds a license or other approval to possess the wild animal as required under this chapter or under s. 29.319 and the person is otherwise in compliance with this chapter and the rules promulgated under this chapter.

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There is a further law against possessing “harmful wild animals”. The state has designated cougars (mountain lions), wild swine, feral swine and animals in the Ursidae family as harmful wild animals and they reserve the right to add to the list. If the animal is not a native wild animal and can inflict harm to the environment or create a public health risk and/or is capable of inflicting severe physical harm to humans or domestic animals they are harmful. People cannot possess animals so designated unless “specifically authorised to do so by the department”.

Satellite-dish ears of the serval. Photo: Pinterest and in public domain.

Satellite-dish ears of the serval. This is a pet serval in someone’s home in America to illustrate the page. Photo: Pinterest and in public domain.


On my understanding of the confusing laws on possession of ‘exotic pets’ in the USA on a state-by-state basis, Wisconsin does not list specific species including species of wild cat which are and which are not legal to possess. They just refer to wild animals in general. Therefore the law is more inclusive and comprehensive, which is all the more surprising because if you go online and read up on this topic you will find that there is an article online today dated August 16, 2015, on the Wisconsin Watch website which states that there is a lack of oversight in Wisconsin on the ownership of exotic animals. It appears to be an outdated and superseded article which states that “Wisconsin one of five states were dangerous exotic animals can be pets”. Other articles say the same thing.

This, on my understanding, is factually incorrect. And I suspect that the law has been tightened up over the intervening seven years.

If I’m incorrect then please tell me in a comment. The general approach to American citizens owning wild cat species such as the serval is that they will require a licence. And obtaining a licence may not be straightforward. I don’t know the procedure and regulations regarding the obtaining of a licence in Wisconsin to own a serval but I was suspect that you will have to demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge, funds, facilities and time and commitment to be a responsible exotic pet owner. And there will be a fee, no doubt, and an initial inspection followed by annual inspections. However, I would recommend that you telephone the required department to discuss the matter further.

Note 1: anybody who desires to own a serval because they look great, should realise that in the USA there have been many serval escapes from homes which have caused distress to the owner and neighbours and of course to the animal concerned. It is functionally impossible in truth to keep a serval in your home as a pet for a variety of reasons one of which is that a home is far too small as a home range for a serval. You will find that there have been many abandonments of serval “pets”. And you will also find that some owners declaw their servals because they simply don’t want the possibility of being slapped and hurt. This is highly immoral and is indicative of a failure in the human-to-exotic pet relationship.

Note 2: clearly, what applies to the serval must also apply to the caracal. Both these medium-sized wild cat species are sometimes pets in America.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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