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Cincinnati 'cocaine cat' out of vet facility, could become Cincinnati Zoo cat ambassador

Amiry serval cocaine cat
Posted at 1:35 PM, Mar 08, 2023

CINCINNATI — After a big cat was found loose in a Cincinnati neighborhood with cocaine in its system has been released from veterinary care and moved to the Cat Ambassador Program area at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

"Amiry is young and very curious," said Linda Castañeda, the lead trainer of Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program. "He is exploring his new space and eating well, both great signs of progress. The CAP team is very excited to have him in our care. We are working on building trust and increasing his comfort as he adjusts to his new home."

Ray Anderson, a spokesperson with Cincinnati Animal CARE, Hamilton County's animal control services provider, said the dog wardens were alerted to reports of a "leopard" spotted in a tree in Oakley on Jan. 28.

The dog wardens were able to retrieve the cat, named Amiry, from the tree and brought it to Cincinnati Animal CARE, though in the process Amiry suffered a broken leg.

Anderson said CAC's medical team called in a big cat expert known for working on the Tiger King case and the 2011 tragedy in Zanesville, Ohio.

"Our initial thought was the cat was a hybrid F1 Savannah, which is legal to own in Ohio, but our expert was pretty certain Amiry was a serval, which are illegal," said Anderson.

A DNA test confirmed Amiry was, in fact, a serval.

A narcotics test confirmed Amiry was positive for exposure to cocaine.

Because CAC is not equipped to handle wild animals, Amiry was taken to the Cincinnati Zoo for care. Michelle Curley, spokesperson for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens said Amiry has been receiving veterinary care in the zoo's Animal Health Center since he arrived.

"He's doing well and the next step will be for our Cat Ambassador Program team to work with him and determine if he's a good fit to be an ambassador animal," said Curley.

Because Amiry is still recovering from his leg injury, members of the Cat Ambassador Program team are keeping a close eye on him before letting him run, jump or climb his way into another tree, the zoo said. Those activities could impair healing, so the team will focus instead on helping Amiry acclimate to a new environment under a new care team.

Amiry will stay behind the scenes for awhile, so visitors shouldn't expect Cincinnati's "cocaine cat" to be incorporated into an exhibit any time soon, though.

Despite it being illegal to own a serval in Ohio, CAC said Amiry's owner has cooperated with the investigation and the Hamilton County Dog Wardens are not pursuing charges, though the case remains open. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is investigating as well.

"We're extremely proud of the work done in this case by the dog wardens and medical staff and are immensely appreciative to the Cincinnati Zoo for getting Amiry the care he needs," said Anderson.

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