Thursday, 4 Mar 2021

African wildcat owner fined £4,000 for keeping exotic pet in family home

An African wildcat owner has been fined £4,000 for keeping the 5ft animal as a pet in his London home.

The creature is now being held at a secret location to avoid rescue attempts as it is feared the man may "try to rescue" her, according to prosecutors.

James Brown, 36, has owned Zena since she was a kitten and insisted she was a "big soft pussycat" who is "entirely tame" and even plays with his young daughter, MyLondon reports.

Neighbours in Roehampton, southwest London, reported him to the police in 2018 after seeing the family pet peering out of a window at their property.

Zena is 5ft tall when she stands on her hind legs.

She was taken to a secure holding centre and has since been transferred to a specialist wildlife facility in the UK.

Brown admitted one count of keeping a dangerous wild animal without a licence.

He did not attend his sentencing hearing at Lavender Hill Magistrates' Court this week.

In his absence, District Judge Adrian Turner ordered him to pay £4,000 to cover Zena's re-homing, handling, and casework.

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African wildcats can leap 12ft and run at 55mph, feeding on rodents and other small mammals.

If owners have a licence, wildcats can be kept legally in the UK.

Prosecutor Henry Laidlaw told the court that Zena was from the iconic Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Brown previously said: "She has never bitten or clawed anyone. The police took her away like she was some kind of monster, but she's so affectionate.

"It's so unfair. She’s no more trouble than an ordinary cat, and I’ve no idea who would want to report us and get her taken away.

"She was well exercised, and there was never any danger of her escaping because she was always on a harness.

"We all loved her, but now I fear we'll never see her again."

Following Zena's seizure, a neighbour said: "I went past on a skateboard and nearly fell off when I saw this big animal peering out.

"But it was never any trouble to us, and I’ve no idea who reported them.”

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