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Breed-Specific Legislation Has No Place in the Cat World, Either

Savannah cats are illegal in five states. It's wrong to ban an entire breed of cat because of ancestry.

 |  Mar 22nd 2013  |   56 Contributions


Last week, WSB-TV reported that a group of cat lovers had gathered in Atlanta to ask legislators to make it legal to own Savannah cats.

"Why for U ban me? U gives me a sad!" 4-month old F1 Savannah cat by Jason Douglas, released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Before I saw that story, I had no idea that there were states where it was illegal to own Savannahs. I did a little more research and found out that Georgia is one of about five states and several cities (including New York City) that ban the ownership of Savannahs.

This is nothing more than breed-specific legislation. And I feel the same way about BSL for cats as I do about laws that prohibit owning Pit Bull dogs: It’s crap. Governments have no place banning the ownership of any dog or cat based solely on its breed.

Yes, the Savannah is a hybrid of a domestic cat and an African wildcat known as a serval, and I can understand how people could get bent out of shape over that. But there are very few Savannahs in the U.S. for two reasons: They’re hard to breed, and holy cow-pies, they’re expensive!

Even in most places where it’s legal to own Savannahs, special permits are required. I get that when it comes to, say F1 (half-serval) or F2 (one-quarter serval) Savannahs, but after that, what’s the point? In my totally unscientific opinion, once a cat is three or more generations removed from its wild ancestors, it’s a domestic cat. Period.

But here’s the thing: Even if you can afford a Savannah, you’ve really got to know what you’re doing if you’re going to get one. They are very high-energy cats that need regular exercise, companionship and, probably more than any other breed, a species-appropriate diet.

According to the Savannah Cat Club, early-generation foundational stock (F1 and F2) Savannahs tend to retain a lot of the shyness and intensity of their serval ancestors, so if you want one of these, you'll need to accommodate your life to the cat's and not expect it to be your fluffy little lap cat. If you’re not willing to meet a Savannah's special needs, please don’t get one.

A cat isn't recognized as a legitimate Savannah unless it has three generations of Savannah-to-Savannah breeding in its pedigree -- which means it would have to be several generations removed from the foundational stock -- and would therefore have barely a drop of “wildness” in it.

As with any specialty breed, some people have shockingly bad reasons for wanting to own Savannahs. I once heard a man say that he wanted to get a pair of them because “they’re bad-ass, and they’ll protect my property.”

Yes, he was serious.

One of the people interviewed for the WSB-TV story said she wanted a Savannah “to have the larger animal, to be able to walk on a leash. They have very dog-like personalities. I think it would be awesome to own something like that.”

Wait a minute. You want a Savannah because it’s a cat that acts like a dog and you can walk it on a leash?

I’ve got a better idea: How about if you’re going to own a Savannah, you do it because you love the breed and you have the time, energy, and skills it takes to make that cat’s life wonderful?

No laws can prevent people from being dumb, but blanket bans can and do prevent responsible people who want to have Savannahs in their life from being able to do so.

The breed isn't the problem; stupid people are. Let's get BSL out of the cat world.

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