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Old September 17th, 2003, 04:38 PM
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Woman living in car has pet cheetah stolen, says it's dangerous when hungry

SURREY, B.C. (CP) - The investigation into a pet cheetah that disappeared from a car parked in this Vancouver suburb can now be classified as a "catnapping."

But there's some question whether the spotted cat is actually a cheetah at all. Surrey RCMP put out a public appeal Wednesday after a Kelowna, B.C., woman reported the large cat had been taken from her parked car on Tuesday. Four callers reported seeing a man dragging the cat down the road on a leash. Police originally treated the disappearance as an escaped animal but now say it's a theft.

The woman who owns the cat was visiting the Surrey area. She has been living out of her car and has no fixed address, police said.

The owner told police the cheetah, named Loki, is tame but since it is on a special diet, the risk to the public will increase as he gets hungry.

Animal experts are questioning whether the cat was a cheetah at all.

The stolen feline weighs about 18 kilograms, while adult cheetahs can weigh between 36 and 64 kilograms.

It's possible this could be serval cat, a smaller African spotted cat, said Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society.

"It looks something like a cheetah but is smaller," he said.

Serval cats, which weigh between 14 and 20 kilograms, are also in demand as exotic pets, said Fricker.

Because it is not endangered, there is no federal law banning importation or ownership of exotic animals that are not endangered, unless forbidden by a local municipal bylaw.

The humane society said Surrey's exotic animal bylaw needs to be strengthened to bar not just the sale and trade of such animals but the keeping of them as well.

Fricker said zoos have been breeding exotics indiscriminately because of a public demand to see their cute offspring. But he said once they grow into adulthood, there's no place for them and they end up with private breeders who exploit the public's interest in owning exotic pets.

"The result is a glut of exotics flooding the marketplace," he said. "It's disturbing. It's a huge public safety issue as well as a humane issue."

Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
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