After her three African cats escaped into the city this weekend, a Los Alamitos woman was cited with allegedly keeping wild animals in her apartment, a state spokesman said today.
The woman, who has not been named, was allegedly harboring the animals -- called African Servals -- without a permit, according to Andrew Hughan, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Game.
The servals, which are the size of a medium-sized dog, have black spots and resemble small cheetahs.
“Now you can possess this type of animal if you have the proper wildlife permit, which this person did not,” Hughan said. “It’s very potentially extremely dangerous. These are wild animals. They are not house pets.”
Los Al resident Javier Mejia went outside his home Sunday morning and found his cat, Little, puffed up, trying to make herself look big.
Mejia said he was surprised when he saw what Little was looking at -- one of the escaped servals.
“I’m not usually startled, but I didn’t know what that was,” Mejia said. “My first thought was 'Bobcat,’ but then I thought, 'That’s not a bobcat.'”
The serval, which Mejia said was less than two yards from him, then ran away, easily leaping over a nearby six-foot tall fence.
Mejia said that his cat was unharmed.
According to Hughan, the serval's owner was cited with three counts of violating state code 671 – possession of a live restricted animal -- which is a misdemeanor.
He added it’s up Orange County District Attorney to pursue the case. However, Hughan said, normally the alleged violator is fined, and the case does not go to court.
State officials got involved in the local incident after Long Beach Animal Care Services received a 911 report “that a bobcat was seen in a neighborhood,” Hughan said.
“It had a tag on it with the owner’s name and address,” Hughan said.
Wardens from the department went to the woman’s home and cited her. She had apparently left her front door open and the animals escaped.
The cats -- two females and a male -- escaped from an apartment in the 4400 block of Hughes Avenue on Saturday night, said Long Beach Animal Care Services Manager Ted Stevens.
The females were found within a few blocks of the apartment and taken to the Forever Wild Cat Sanctuary in Phelan, Stevens said. Neither the cats nor their captors were injured.
The search for the male lasted into Sunday night. He was located at the owner's apartment around 10:30 p.m. and will be sent to the Phelan cat sanctuary as well, Stevens said.
The three animals will live out their lives in the San Bernardino County animal rehab facility, according to Hughan.
“They will not be returned to the homeowner, and they will not be set free,” he said.
Hughan said his department has had reports of similar incidents of wild animals being kept in local homes throughout the year including people keeping alligators, crocodiles and a Capybara (the largest rodent) in a Pasa Robles home.
-- City News Service contributed to this story.