Exotic cat rescued from a tree in Ohio tests positive for cocaine
By Zoe Sottile, CNN
(CNN) -- No, this isn't a sequel to "Cocaine Bear" -- it's the real-life story of a wild cat rescued in Cincinnati that had been exposed to cocaine.
The exotic cat -- known as a serval -- tested positive for cocaine after being rescued in Cincinnati, according to animal control officials. Servals are medium-sized wild cats native to sub-Saharan Africa.
The serval, named Amiry, was rescued at the end of January after escaping from a vehicle during a police stop and climbing a tree, according to a March 9 Facebook post from Cincinnati Animal CARE, which responded to the incident. Ray Anderson, the shelter's community engagement manager, told CNN that the cat's owner had been pulled over by police for an unrelated traffic violation.
Hamilton County Dog Wardens, a division of Cincinnati Animal CARE, worked to retrieve the "highly agitated, highly upset" serval from the tree. The cat fell from the tree during the rescue attempt and fractured his leg, according to Anderson.
At the shelter, staff set about determining just what kind of cat the feline was, according to the Facebook post. They took a sample for a DNA test -- and also tested him for narcotics.
Drug testing rescue animals is a fairly new procedure for the shelter, according to the Facebook post. They started regularly testing exotic animals for narcotics after a incident last year in which they seized a capuchin monkey named Neo who tested positive for methamphetamine.
The testing confirmed that Amiry was indeed a serval, which are illegal to own in Ohio, and that he had been exposed to cocaine. Anderson told CNN that the shelter was unable to disclose how much cocaine Amiry had ingested while an investigation into the case is ongoing. "At this time, we have no evidence to tell us that it was intentional," he said, adding that the cat may have accidentally consumed the drug in the home, in the car, or in the outdoors.
In the Facebook post, the shelter said Amiry's owner cooperated with the investigation and relinquished the cat into the shelter's custody.
"His owner was cooperative and paid for Amiry's care until all ownership transfers were finalized, which is when this story went public," wrote the shelter.
The wild cat is now under the care of the Cincinnati Zoo, according to the Facebook post. In a blog post on Wednesday, the zoo said that Amiry is "eating well" and moving around his new habitat indoors and outside.
The zoo explained that servals are expert hunters that are specially adapted to the needs of their natural habitat -- but they don't make great pets.
"They spray and mark their territory, need vast amounts of exercise and specialized care to thrive in human care," wrote the zoo. "At a place like the Cincinnati Zoo, we are able to provide our servals, and every animal, with the space, exercise, mental and physical enrichment that each species needs."
The zoo told CNN in an email that they hope to provide a permanent home for Amiry in their Cat Ambassador Program.
"Since he is used to being around people, we are hoping he is a strong candidate to join our ambassador program," they wrote.
They added that Amiry didn't have to be treated for intoxication and continues to be "clinically normal" aside from his still-healing fracture.
The Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals Act prohibits the possession of servals, although "savannah cats," a popular hybrid created by breeding a serval with a domestic cat, are permitted.
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