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The owner of a cheetah-like African wildcat was caught out after his neighbours spotted it sitting in the window of his London home.
James Brown has now been handed £5,000 in fines and costs for keeping the serval cat as a family pet without a licence.
He wrongly insisted the animal, which he bought from a Russian firm, was a less dangerous species.
Officials say the wildcat, described as a dangerous predator, can’t normally be bought in Britain and is not suitable as a domestic pet.
Only special licence holders can keep them if they are legally imported, but they must must stay in a secure enclosure.
Wandsworth Council was first alerted to the wildcat in Balham, south west London when Brown emailed about getting a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.
He changed his mind and said he was about to move to nearby Lambeth.
Two months later, a resident in Balham complained about seeing a wildcat on his window ledge.
Brown claimed he no longer owned the animal – a close relative of the cheetah – and was about to move to Lambeth.
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Nothing more was heard until six months later, when another resident complained about seeing the cat at Brown’s new home in Roehampton.
Welfare officers and police visited him, although he insisted it was another species of less dangerous wildcat.
The wildcat was removed and rehoused at a specialist wildlife facility.
At Lavender Hill magistrates’ court last Tuesday, Brown was convicted of an offence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.
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He was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £4,000 in prosecution costs and a £181 victim surcharge.
Brown was also banned from owning any dangerous wild animals for two years.
Wandsworth Council said it is not clear how the serval came to be in the UK.
Environment chief Steffi Sutters said: “Keeping a wild animal like this as a pet is a risky business, but it is possible if certain licence requirements are met.
“However it is not suitable to keep a predatory wildcat that should be roaming the wide-open plains of Africa in a cramped residence in Roehampton."
The councillor said the wildcat is “now living and thriving in much more natural and appropriate surroundings”.
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