HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — An exotic pet store in Huntsville is once again under the microscope – and Carole Baskin has something to say about it.
Recently, a local mom visited 256Exotics with her family to purchase a mouse for their pet snake. While they were inside the store, Shelby Rood says her 3-year-old daughter Ezlyn was talking to one of the store’s Savannah Serval cats in a nearby cage.
Rood says the large cat was in a cage that had a rope around it. It only took a second when Rood turned away for the cat to grab Ezlyn – with one paw in her head and another in her back. Rood says the cat continued trying to paw and grab at her daughter as she scooped her up and ran to the bathroom.
Amid the screaming and crying, Rood says the store owner came out and talked with her husband, who relayed what happened.
Once they emerged from the bathroom, Rood says she was given the mouse while the owner asked Ezlyn, who was bleeding, if she wanted to see a bird dance.
Rood’s next stop was the hospital. While they waited, she says she sent pictures and messages to the store owner and asked if the cat was up to date on shots. The response, she says, was less than she could have hoped, with no apology and a recommendation to file a police report.
Since the alleged incident, 256Exotics made a post on their Facebook page with a video of the Serval.
With rumors of the attack flying over social media, renowned big cat lover and advocate Carole Baskin reached out to News 19 offering her insight on the situation:
“The reason children and innocent bystanders continue to be injured by privately owned exotic cats is because the US has a patchwork of laws that are ineffective,” said Baskin. “The Big Cat Public Safety Act, which is before the US Congress right now would restrict public contact with big cats and phase out their possession, but Servals, like the ones who allegedly escaped 256Exotics in Sept. 2021 and who apparently mauled a child last month, are not included in the federal bill. Alabama is one of only four states with no laws restricting such dangerous pets and that has to change.”
Baskin also referenced a story News 19’s covered when the Servals were on the loose last year. She offered her advice in that situation, too.
According to Baskin, a complaint was filed with USDA against 256 Exotics regarding the recent incident, but she says, “it usually takes many years of complaints and injuries for USDA to take any action.”
She encourages anyone that may have been harmed by a wildcat at the store to file a complaint here.
Baskin says the store seems to be labeling the cat who attacked the child as a “Savannah Cat hybrid” in order to avoid some prohibition on displaying a Serval – which requires a USDA license.
“The cat shown on their Facebook page is NOT a hybrid,” Baskin added. “But rather a purebred Serval to my trained eye. Unfortunately, Alabama is one of four states with no laws prohibiting the possession of wildcats. Exhibition, like this, may be another matter.”
The three other states without laws on keeping wild animals as pets include Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
News 19 reached out to 256 Exotics for comment, who said in a statement:
“We are taking extra precautions to protect the public and our animals by providing better barriers around the exotic animals.”