A police dispatcher received a call that a cheetah was running around the streets of Reading, Pennsylvania, and alerted animal control officers.
When the Animal Rescue League of Berks County responded, it wasn't a cheetah that was found but an exotic African cat that could be worth up to $30,000 on the black market, according to the Reading Eagle.
The ARL captured the wild cat Saturday night and identified it as being an African serval, which only looks like a small cheetah.
Officials believe the declawed cat was someone's pet that escaped, but the owners haven't come forward looking for it because of the legality of owning one of these animals.
"This is a wild animal," Tom Hubric of ARL told the Reading Eagle. "This isn't something you can legally own unless you have a special license."
The Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission reported that nobody in Berks County has a current license to own a serval, Hubric said in a Facebook post.
"The animal's probably worth $20,000 to $30,000 on the black market," Hubric told the Reading Eagle.
Hubric offered a theory as to why someone in Reading might have a serval.
“If you take a female serval, which is what she is, and you mate her with a domestic cat, that is then called a Savannah cat,” he explained. “A Savannah cat is a legal cat you can own. You don’t need a license. And those kittens are worth 10 grand a pop.”
After a temporary stay at ARL facilities, the unnamed serval on Thursday morning was transported by a Game Commission wildlife conservation officer to a large cat rescue organization.
"She will be a cat that will be used for education and community outreach to promote why people shouldn’t have exotic cats," Hubric told the Reading Eagle. "She’ll spend the rest of her life in a healthy environment because this cat doesn’t belong in your home.
"This cat requires extensive exercise. This animal needs a special diet. It’s not something the average person is going to be able to take care of. But she’s just a magnificent animal and she’s captivated everyone who has seen her, and we’ve just been honored to have the time we’ve had with her."
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