Are caracals legal in Michigan? An exotic African cat’s escape in Royal Oak raises the question

Woman says she is relocating large African cats after they have escaped

A Royal Oak woman told police she will move her pets, African caracals, after escaping her enclosure this week. However, she is looking for a lawyer.

Before the week of mid-October, it was possible that many in Metro Detroit didn’t know what a caracal was.

Described as the size of a medium-sized dog with the personality of one, these 50-pound carnivorous African native cats have ears that resemble horns and long canine teeth. Instead of meowing, they hiss and hunt small mammals, birds and rodents for food.

When at least two escaped from a Royal Oak resident’s backyard enclosure this week, parishioners were on high alert over an exotic cat stalking Metro Detroit.

Nobody was injured and the missing caracal – whose name is Bam Bam – was safely brought back to his homeland. However, the fate of the big cat’s future residence appears to be in the balance after its owner agreed with Royal Oak Police to relocate the animals.

The legal territory for owning an exotic pet is not ambiguous – at least not for those who own one or one of the animal control officers who enforce the rules for their possession.

TIED TOGETHER: Police are looking for a missing exotic cat

According to an MDARD spokeswoman, there are no state restrictions on the possession and possession of caracals. As long as the animal receives adequate care, including food, water, shelter, hygiene, exercise, and veterinary care, to maintain its health, the owner can keep it.

However, there may be local restrictions. Macomb County’s Animal Control Department has passed an ordinance banning the possession of exotic cats – a law many towns and cities have signed up to.

Three caracals in an enclosure. Image via the Royal Oak Public Schools Facebook page.

“If the animal is dangerous or potentially dangerous, it doesn’t matter whether you live in a rural or urban area,” said Jeff Randazzo, Macomb County’s senior animal control officer.

Randazzo, who is also president of the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers, said the county has designed its policies specifically to target whether or not an animal is exotic. And that includes caracals.

Without explicit rules, it can be difficult to decide whose job it is to catch a missing pet and how to approach it – especially if it tends to flee multiple times.

“This is where the problem comes in, I think. You don’t know who will try that. So it’s one of those situations where it’s always good to have a prescription to address the problem, ”he said. “Otherwise it could be extremely dangerous.”

Compare that to neighboring Oakland County, which the Animal Control Agency says has no law restricting ownership of exotic pets like caracals.

Royal Oak police said in a statement this week that the “inability of the owner to keep the animals on her property” has escalated to the department in an attempt to “strongly encourage” them to move.

Heather Ineich from South Lyon Murphy Animal Recovery helped capture the cat.

“These cats have been there for two years and there have been no incidents. Even if they did come out, there was no incident at all,” she said.

The owner of the caracals said she was looking for a lawyer because she had received five allegations. She said on Friday that she wants to leave with the animals by Monday.

“It sort of turned into this big, scary thing,” Ineich said. “I think she should go because so many people treated her so badly.”

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