On January 28, in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati, Hamilton County Dog Wardens responded to unusual reports of a “leopard” in a tree. Specialists retrieved the large spotted cat and delivered it to Cincinnati Animal Care (CAC), where tests showed that it was actually an African serval that had recently consumed cocaine.
The incident happened over a month ago, but reports have gone viral in recent days, reportedly spurred along by the release of the movie “Cocaine Bear.” The story—and the African cat’s unlikely cocaine consumption—harken back to two other bizarre cases involving exotic “pets” in the state of Ohio—the Zanesville massacre in 2011 and the rescue of a capuchin monkey allegedly high on amphetamines in 2022.
In October 2011, exotic animal collector Terry Thompson set over 50 animals loose—18 Bengal tigers and 17 lions among the lot—before fatally shooting himself on his farm west of Zanesville. In a nightmarish scene, deputies were forced to kill all the released animals due to the serious threat they posed to nearby humans. In response to the calamity, Ohio established new laws prohibiting the possession of many exotic animals, including African servals.
Meanwhile, in March 2022, an investigation by Hamilton County Dog Wardens led to the seizure of a pet capuchin monkey that was under the influence of Xanax and methamphetamine. After the capuchin case, it became standard procedure at CAC to test all exotic animals that arrived at their facility for narcotics and other illicit substances.
CAC’s first response to calls about a “leopard” wandering the streets of residential Cincinnati was to usher out an exotic animal expert (the same one who handled the Zanesville case) to determine if the cat’s owner possessed it legally. Their second action was to administer DNA and drug testing. They concluded that it was illegally owned and had cocaine in its system.
In a Facebook post, CAC stated that the serval, who they named Amiry, had been transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo. “We examined Amiry, gave him some meds, and did the DNA test and drug test while he was at Cincinnati Animal CARE,” Ray Anderson, a spokesman for CAC, told FOX News Digital. “He was transferred to the zoo a few days later. The zoo is currently working with him behind the scenes to see if he will join their Cat Ambassador program.”
Servals are medium-sized cats with spots, long necks, and large ears native to Africa. They are excellent hunters that primarily dine on rodents, but will eat almost anything they can catch, from grasshoppers to frogs. Despite their unpredictable nature, these sub-Saharan felines are sometimes kept as highly-prized exotic pets in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The former owner of the “cocaine serval” told Cincinnati-based Local 12 that he was “stunned” to learn that his cat had cocaine coursing through its system when it was captured by authorities. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is currently conducting an investigation.