October 06, 2016 - 10:57 AM
Margueret Lewis has lots to say about an exotic animal bylaw in Ottawa that bans servals — small cheetah-like cats — but most of it's obscene. She lives on a large rural property within the city's limits with two servals, in direct contravention of the ban.
Servals are listed on the city's prohibited animal list because the city says they are dangerous, according to Christine Hartig, a policy analyst who wrote the bylaw.
Lewis disagrees vehemently and wants the bylaw changed.
"They're not tigers or lions — they will not eat you. You could not get near one if they got loose. Try to catch up with one. You won't catch them, trust me," says Lewis, 55, who has several tattoos of servals.
Yet she faces a $615 fine if she's caught, which Hartig said can be levied over and over again until the prohibited animal is gone. Hartig acknowledges the city wouldn't seize the animal, and would leave that decision up to the courts if it ever went that far.
Lewis, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, loves her cats — Hunter, a seven-year-old male from a sanctuary in Florida, and Koshi, a 16-month-old female from a breeder in British Columbia. She says they fit in well with her other animals: three dogs, three Savannah cats (a serval/domestic cat mix), two horses, a macaw and a tortoise.
Hunter weighs about 20 kilograms while Koshi weighs about half that. Lewis says her love of animals helps her deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her love for wildlife began as a young girl, she says, when she was raised with wolves, bears and lynx that her father kept on the property. Then she fell in love with dogs.
"I'm a former German shepherd dog breeder," she says. "But I've actually been shunned by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada."
But she bounced back. About 10 years ago, she fell in love with servals, which have been bred as pets in Canada for years.
Now she's speaking out with the hopes of getting the bylaw changed.
The city says that will never happen.
"When you raise them as cubs, they're different," Lewis says, adding that it costs her about $1,600 a month to feed the cats raw elk, bison, deer and chicken.
"They bond hard and once they bond with a family, they bond for life. And I want to tell you, these guys have saved my life, they really have."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016