A photo shows three of four African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident. On Oct. 13, Royal Oak police got involved in locating two of the exotic cats, who had escaped their unsecured enclosure. On Nov. 8, the City Commission passed a temporary moratorium meant to ensure that the cats do not return to the city.

A photo shows three of four African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident. On Oct. 13, Royal Oak police got involved in locating two of the exotic cats, who had escaped their unsecured enclosure. On Nov. 8, the City Commission passed a temporary moratorium meant to ensure that the cats do not return to the city.

File photo provided by the Royal Oak Police Department


Police: No issues arise after Royal Oak’s moratorium on non-domestic animals

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 19, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak police report that they have not had to enforce any violations of a six-month moratorium on non-domestic animals that was included in an emergency ordinance approved and made immediately effective by the Royal Oak City Commission Nov. 8.

The immediate intent of the ordinance, as recommended by City Manager Paul Brake, was to ensure that African caracals owned by a resident were not brought back into the city. In the long term, the ordinance will include public input on a permanent ordinance regulating non-domestic animal ownership in residential areas.

Police told C & G Newspapers that officers have had no issues with owners of new or existing non-domestic animals since the six-month moratorium went into effect.

The incident that triggered the moratorium took place in October.

Police received a report in the early morning hours of Oct. 13 of what someone thought was a cougar walking through the parking lot of Keller Elementary School. Now-retired Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said that it was the third time police got involved in searching for one or more loose African caracals owned by a Royal Oak resident.

A caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa and other regions, characterized by its strong build, long legs, short face, long canine teeth, and long, tufted ears. A police press release states that, according to the Department of Natural Resources, “this particular species does not fall under the exotic cat classification and is unregulated.”

In a prior interview, O’Donohue said the owner had four caracals that lived in a secure enclosure in the owner’s backyard, and each time they escaped, the owner did not report it to police and the cage was unsecured as a result of human error.

Police responded to the home of the owner Oct. 13, where two of the cats were inside the cage, which was unsecured, and two were missing. Officers located one of the missing cats nearby, and the animal walked back home with the owner, police said.

At approximately 6 p.m. Oct. 13, a resident reported that he believed the missing African caracal was in his backyard, and responding police confirmed that it was the missing animal. Officers set up a perimeter and kept an eye on the cat until the owner and a trapper could get the animal caged, police said.

O’Donohue said police issued the owner five violations for the escape of the animals under the city’s ordinance regulating the keeping of animals. He told C & G Newspapers that police had a “hard conversation” with the owner, who assured police that the animals would be gone by Oct. 18, and that she had kept her promise.

During the Nov. 8 City Commission meeting, Brake said that developing a permanent ordinance regulating non-domestic animals “could be a lengthy process,” but he wanted to have legislation on the books to address the incident in October.

“Then we have the ordinance that prohibits specifically that type of animal and, for that matter, also prohibits any breeding or any other activities,” Brake said. “This is in residential-zoned areas only, so we’re not talking about impacting any commercial operations — obviously, it would have nothing to do with the Detroit Zoo.”

He added that the ordinance would be complaint-driven and that there would have to be enough evidence that the ownership of non-domestic animals poses a public safety hazard.

“It gives us a tool. I don’t expect it to be exercised until we have a permanent ordinance,” O’Donohue said Nov. 8. “It’s just kind of a safeguard.”

According to the agenda packet, Brake’s multi-phased approach for developing permanent regulations includes educating residents about what the ordinance says and does, investigating alternatives in the field of animal control and legal processes, and conducting public engagement on the proposed revisions.

The six-month moratorium will expire May 8, 2022.

For more information, visit romi.gov or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

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