HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — An exotic pet store in Huntsville is under the microscope again — 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 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 big cat was in a cage with rope around it. It only took a second when Rood turned away for the cat to grab Ezlyn – with one paw in the head and another in the back. Rood says the cat kept trying to paw and grab his daughter as she picked her up and ran for the bathroom.
Amid the screaming and crying, Rood says the store owner came out and spoke with her husband, who recounted what happened.
Once they got out of the bathroom, Rood says he was given the mouse while the owner asked the bleeding Ezlyn if she wanted to see a bird dance.
Rood’s next stop was the hospital. While they waited, she says she sent photos and messages to the store owner and asked if the chat was up to date on plans. The response, she says, was less than she could have hoped for, with no apologies and a recommendation to file a police report.
Since the alleged incident, 256Exotics has posted a video of the Serval on its Facebook page.
As rumors of the attack circulated on social media, famous big cat lover and lawyer Carole Baskin reached out to News 19 to offer her perspective on the situation:
“The reason children and innocent bystanders continue to be harmed by private exotic cats is because the United States has a patchwork of laws that are ineffective,” Baskin said. “The Big Cat Public Safety Act, which is currently before the US Congress, would restrict public contact with big cats and phase out their possession, but Servals, like those who allegedly escaped 256Exotics in September 2021 and apparently mutilated a child in the last month, are not included in the federal bill. Alabama is one of only four states that has no laws restricting these dangerous pets and that needs to change.
Baskin also referenced a story News 19 covered when the Servals were on the loose last year. She also offered her advice in this situation.
According to Baskin, a complaint has been filed with the USDA against 256 Exotics regarding the recent incident, but she says “it usually takes many years of complaints and injuries for the USDA to take action.”
She encourages anyone who may have been harmed by a feral cat in the store to file a complaint here.
Baskin says the store appears to be labeling the cat that attacked the child as a “Savannah Cat hybrid” to avoid a ban on displaying a Serval — which requires a USDA license.
“The cat displayed on their Facebook page is NOT a hybrid,” Baskin added. “But more of a purebred Serval to my trained eye. Unfortunately, Alabama is one of four states with no laws prohibiting the ownership of feral cats. An exhibition, like this one, can be another matter.
The other three states without laws on keeping wild animals as pets are Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
News 19 has reached out to 256 Exotics for comment, but has not heard from the owner.