A New Yorker was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the Western District of New York today for violating Lacey and Animal Welfare Acts by trafficking in African wild cats.
Christopher Casacc, 39, from Amherst, did business as ExoticCubs.com, promoting, importing and selling exotic African cats. Between February and June 2018, Casacci imported and sold dozens of caracals (Caracal caracal) and servals (Leptailurus serval) for $ 7,500 to $ 10,000 each. Casacc claimed it operated as a big cat rescue organization to circumvent New York’s prohibition on owning and selling wild animals. Casacc also forged transportation documents to hide the true nature of the cats, calling the animals instead domestic crossbreeds, such as Bengal cats or Savannah cats. In addition, Casacc was not allowed to sell the cats because he was not allowed to do so under the Animal Welfare Act.
“Selling wild animals as pets is not only against the law, but also endangers local communities and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources (ENRD). “The Justice Department is committed to protecting the public and our native wildlife from the irresponsible actions of wildlife traffickers.”
“The purpose of the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act is to protect fish, wildlife and other animals, especially those threatened with extinction, from those who want to profit from human trafficking,” said US Attorney Trini E. Ross for the Western District of New York. “Enforcing these measures is important to ensure that animals, such as the exotic African cats in this case, are protected.”
“Criminals who break wildlife laws like the Lacey Act put people and animals at great risk,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS). “The wildlife trade is depleting the world’s natural resources, so it is important that we work with our partners to stop this type of illegal activity. This will help protect risks to human health and safety, as well as to native wildlife and their habitats, and ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from our cherished wild heritage. “
Caracals, also known as “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa that can reach around 45 pounds. Servals, also native to Africa, weigh about 40 pounds. All animals were still sold as kittens and despite their size and ferocity, Casacc markets them as “pets”. Both species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale are restricted under New York State law. Several kittens imported by Casacc died in his care or days after he sold them and many live kittens were confiscated during Casacc’s investigation. The confiscated animals now live permanently in recognized animal shelters.
Casacci was already charged with his actions in January 2020. The investigation was conducted by the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent Ryan Noel, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau. conducted the investigation of environmental crime.
The case is being followed up by Trial Attorney Patrick Duggan of ENRD’s Environmental Crime Division and Assistant Attorney General Aaron J. Mango of the Western District of New York.