Beloved pet bob­cat re­turned

Belleville News-Democrat - - News - BY MARY COO­LEY mcoo­[email protected]

Capone the bob­cat was re­turned to a 44-year-old Swansea woman Tues­day night af­ter she was found guilty of keep­ing a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal.

Lake­sha May­weather was charged with keep­ing a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal and im­port­ing live game with­out a per­mit in late Sep­tem­ber. On Tues­day, a judge dis­missed the im­port­ing charge but she was con­victed of keep­ing a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal. She was fined $50 and must pay $3,562.14 in resti­tu­tion.

“He is so good,” she said by phone on Wed­nes­day. “He’s back to the way he was be­fore, kind of like he never left our house.”

On­line fundrais­ers as­sisted the fam­ily with costs as­so­ci­ated with the case.

The con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer who ini­tially took Capone, Don Schachner, said on Wed­nes­day that he “gen­uinely be­lieves she thought she had done things cor­rectly” when May­weather got her per­mit and the bob­cat.

There are a “cou­ple of ex­emp­tions” for ex­otic an­i­mals, Schachner said, although most are not al­lowed un­der the state’s wildlife code.

“Re­al­is­ti­cally (the ex­emp­tions) don’t ap­ply to in­di­vid­u­als,” he said, but are in­stead meant for those who re­ha­bil­i­tate an­i­mals and al­low pub­lic view­ing of the an­i­mals. Pay­ments from the pub­lic al­low the con­tin­ued re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices and al­low the an­i­mals “to live out their nor­mal lives.”

Since Oc­to­ber when Capone was re­moved, May­weather ap­plied for and was granted a Class C fed­eral ex­hibitor’s per­mit from the United States De­part­ment Agri­cul­ture. That per­mit, which echoed word­ing in the state wildlife code “although not in­tended to be that way,” al­lowed her to pos­sess the an­i­mal, Schachner said, but the city of Swansea balked.

The USDA per­mit is meant for breed­ers, and the city didn’t want Capone bred, Schachner said.

Capone is neutered. Af­ter ad­di­tional lan­guage on the court or­der, the city was sat­is­fied that May­weather had the proper per­mits and did not in­tend to breed Capone.

“It’s a bless­ing in dis­guise,” Schachner said of the re­moval and court in­ter­ac­tion. Capone was found to have a diet de­fi­ciency that were caus­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal and vi­sion prob­lems. Capone may have died within a year, Schachner was told.

“There’s a spe­cific amino acid bob­cats re­quire, that they’re not go­ing to get from process do­mes­ti­cated meats,” he said.

He said May­weather is “an up­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual who would not mis­treat the an­i­mal, know­ingly” and that the USDA in­spec­tor had been im­pressed with her care of the bob­cat, which in­cludes a large in­door en­clo­sure.

May­weather said she will be feed­ing Capone a “live feed diet” of frozen whole an­i­mals and or­gan meats that will keep him healthy.

“He gained about 2 pounds, I can’t even pick

HE IS SO GOOD. HE’S BACK TO THE WAY HE WAS BE­FORE, KIND OF LIKE HE NEVER LEFT OUR HOUSE. Lake­sha May­weather, owner of 2-year-old bob­cat Capone

him up any­more,” she said. “That two pounds... he’s very healthy, his coat looks shinier.”

Schachner seemed re­lieved that Capone was back home.

“Bob­cat was re­turned to them and ev­ery­body’s happy,” he said.

Capone is the first an­i­mal from the cat fam­ily that he can re­mem­ber encountering as a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer of nearly 20 years, Schachner said. He more of­ten runs into ven­omous snakes and al­li­ga­tors, which are re­moved from the home and placed with zoos or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try. He said the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple do not have the fa­cil­i­ties to prop­erly care for such an­i­mals.

“Wild an­i­mals are wild be­cause God cre­ated them that way ... you can­not truly pre­dict their be­hav­ior,” he said, adding that even do­mes­tic an­i­mals will some­times be­have in un­pre­dictable ways.

He said in this case, Capone had been bought from a breeder and been around hu­mans all its life.

“For lack of a bet­ter way to put it, it’s been hu­man­ized its en­tire life,” he said.

He said they would have fought to not let her keep Capone had the bob­cat been cap­tured in the wild.

Pro­vided photo

Capone is a 2-year-old bob­cat who was re­turned to his owner af­ter she was found guilty of keep­ing a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal. His owner ap­plied for a per­mit to keep him.

Pro­vided photo

Lake­sha May­weather with Capone, who she said is look­ing healthy.

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