Serval cat native to Africa

Wild Cat Trafficking Case Comes to a Close



An update on a case of African wild cat trafficking in New York.

In the summer of 2018, World Animal Protection helped coordinate the rescue of four servals, two caracals, and one savannah cat. These African wild cats were intended to be sold illegally as pets by a man living in upstate New York. All the animals were malnourished and given emergency veterinary care before being taken to accredited sanctuaries-- Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, and Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary in Nevada.

Like all wild animals, African wild cats cannot thrive in human homes. Unable to engage in their natural behaviors, they suffer psychologically and physically. Wild cats are natural hunters and powerful animals. Keeping them in homes is very dangerous, particularly for smaller domesticated animals and children.

The Department of Justice’s Case Against the Trafficker

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against the man, and in October 2021, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violations of the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Beyond the animals involved in our rescue, he sold dozens of wild cats through the website “” for thousands of dollars. In addition to illegal sales, some of the kittens he imported died while in his care or shortly after sale.

In the DOJ’s press release, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim noted, “Selling wild animals as pets not only breaks the law, but also endangers local communities and environments. The Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting the public and our native wildlife from the irresponsible actions of wildlife traffickers.”

Ending the Wildlife Trade

While we are grateful that wild cats will no longer be exploited by this trafficker, prison is not something to celebrate. Recognizing the physical, psychological, and financial violence that prisons inflict on incarcerated persons, their families, and their communities, the prison abolition movement is working to dismantle the prison system and, in its place, create a system rooted in dignity and justice.

This case is a good reminder that we must advance alternatives to incarceration and continue grappling with ways to meaningfully hold people accountable for mistreating animals, as well as confront the legal wildlife trade, one of the biggest sources of suffering for wild animals and far larger than illegal trade. While this man was not licensed under the Animal Welfare Act, some wild cat sales are still legal in the US. Yet it makes no difference to the animal whether a transaction is legal or illegal. In order to truly protect both animals and ourselves, it’s time to end the trade in wild animals altogether.

This case is a good reminder that we must continue to imagine new ways to meaningfully hold people accountable for mistreating animals as well as holistically confront one of the biggest sources of suffering for wild animals — the legal wildlife trade.