'Cocaine Serval' Captured in Ohio, Receiving Treatment at Cincinnati Zoo

‘I would rather deal with a tiger,' a big cat expert brought in to identify the serval said

CAC’s medical staff ran a drug screen on the big cat found in a tree in Oakley, which came back positive for cocaine. - Photo: Provided by Ray Anderson
Photo: Provided by Ray Anderson
CAC’s medical staff ran a drug screen on the big cat found in a tree in Oakley, which came back positive for cocaine.

A big cat with a small cocaine problem is in the care of the Cincinnati Zoo after Hamilton County’s dog warden recovered a serval cat from a home in Oakley.

In the early morning of Jan. 28, Ray Anderson was awakened by a call from media outlets asking about reports of a leopard on the loose.

“For a split second I really thought there was a leopard,” Anderson said. “But what happened was, in an encounter with Cincinnati Police, the cat either escaped from an apartment or car and ran up a tree, and that’s when we got called in.”

After removing the big cat, named Amiry, from the tree, dog wardens transported it back to Cincinnati Animal CARE (CAC), the non-profit that operates Hamilton County’s animal shelter.

Amiry suffered a broken leg during the capture, according to Anderson, and vets at CAC sedated him to treat the injury. After bringing the “grumpy” cat to CAC’s facility in Northside, Anderson said a big cat expert was brought in to confirm the breed of the 35-pound cat. He said it didn’t take long.

“He came in and took one look at it and said, ‘Oh, no, that’s absolutely a serval,’” Anderson said. “He asked us how we got it out and I told him that the dog wardens climbed up a tree and got it, and he told us, ‘I would rather deal with a tiger.’”

Servals are native to savannas in more than 35 African countries. They’re illegal to own in Ohio, unless the cat is a savanna hybrid, which is a serval bred with a domestic cat. Servals are legal to own in Indiana with a permit. Anderson said CAC’s medical staff ran a DNA test which confirmed Amiry was 100% serval and not a hybrid.

The team also ran a drug test on the cat, which Anderson said is standard protocol for strange or exotic cases, and it came back positive for cocaine.

Charges for the illegal possession of the cat and for the presence of cocaine in its system aren’t being filed at the moment, but chief dog warden for Hamilton County Troy Taylor said that charges are still possible.

“Just because we said no charges are being filed now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. This is an ongoing investigation, we’re still looking into that," Taylor said.

Investigators are working to determine if the cat’s ingestion of cocaine was accidental or forced, and who was physically responsible. Anderson said the owner has been cooperative during the investigation and willingly surrendered the Amiry to CAC.

After receiving initial treatment at CAC for two days, Anderson said the cat was relocated to the Cincinnati Zoo where he continues to receive treatment.

The zoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the condition of the serval or where he might end up long-term.

Originally published by CityBeat, Scene's sister paper in Cincinnati.

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