Sporting a bit of a wild side, Savannah cats have a tough time finding acceptance. Owners prize the African Serval/domestic cat hybrid for its gorgeous form and playful personality, but its instincts make it enough of a threat that many areas find it best to ban them altogether. Georgia is one of a handful of states where Savannah cats of every generation are illegal to own.
Responsible ownership will save you the heartache of losing your cat and thrusting it into an unfortunate situation. If you’re considering a Savannah cat, check out these crucial details on Georgia’s ownership laws before making a regrettable decision.
Are Savannah Cats Illegal in Georgia?
You’d think a name like Savannah would make any animal welcome in Georgia. Unfortunately, Georgia is among 12 states with Savannah cat ownership restrictions and one of four states with complete bans. Other states where the Savannah cat is illegal include:
While many states either allow Savannah cats entirely or ban them completely, plenty of other states confuse matters with conditional laws. For instance, Texas sets laws by county and makes obtaining the proper permits extremely challenging. Many other states where Savannah cats are legal allow only those with an F4 filial generation or later (i.e., F1–F3 are illegal).
Is It Possible to Have a Savannah Cat in Georgia?
According to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources1, hybrids between domestic and wild animals, such as Savannah cats, face strict regulations. Exotic carnivores, including all species of cats, weasels, foxes, bears, and wolves, are illegal to own as pets.
Who Can Own a Savannah Cat?
The Savannah cat is illegal to have as a pet in Georgia. You can, however, possess a Savannah cat of any generation with a license. Georgia Code 27-5-42, updated in 2020, explains that the following conditions may allow you to obtain a wild animal license:
The proper permits and licenses come with a cost, and you’ll need adequate facilities that may require regular inspections. Per the most recent tightening of the law in 20223, exotic cats now also need liability insurance.
Granted, none of these exceptions offer hope for working the system and keeping the cat as a pet. Exhibition licenses entail making the animals viewable to the public for at least 30 hours a week for half the year. Scientific ownership comes with time limits and a host of reporting requirements. No matter how you plan to justify it, you’ll have to repeatedly prove a sound reason for having a Savannah cat that goes far beyond simple pet ownership.
Can Wildlife Rehabilitators Keep Savannah Cats in Georgia?
Wildlife rehabilitators must pass an exam and keep state-inspected facilities to host wild animals in their care. Once licensed, you can begin taking in and tending to injured and orphaned wildlife.
While it is a noble endeavor for any animal lover, becoming a wildlife rehabilitator does not give you a roundabout way of obtaining a Savannah cat. Rehabilitators deal only with native wildlife that could go back into the wild, such as an injured deer or hawk. Since Servals and Savannah cats are exotic, they would not fall under a rehabilitator’s purview.
Are There Any Other Laws That Might Let You Keep a Savannah Cat?
Georgia Code 27-5-5 does offer one situation when you might be able to own a wild animal as a pet4, but it’s unlikely to help you with a Savannah cat. When Georgia passed the original laws, it grandfathered in existing wild animal pets. Of course, the law ensured there would be no future generations of any wild animal or exotic hybrid pets by outlawing any breeding or sales.
With a ban on breeding, the only way you could own a legal Savannah cat in Georgia is if it were in your possession before July 1, 1994. As they generally live to 20 years at most, finding a legal pet Savannah cat in Georgia at this point is highly unlikely.
What Happens If You Get Caught With a Savannah Cat?
If a law enforcement officer finds you have an illegal Savannah cat in Georgia, they will take the animal and move it to a sanctuary. You may be able to visit it as a member of the public, but you will lose your pet.
Georgia law enforcement takes possession of an illegal animal as a grave offense. Alongside surrendering your pet, you will typically pay hundreds of dollars in fines and potentially face prison for keeping a wild animal.
Traveling with a Savannah Cat
If you don’t live in the state, there are still several situations where you may end up with a pet Savannah cat in Georgia. After all, Savannah cats are 100% legal in every state that borders it. And if you live in South Carolina and are traveling to Florida with your pet, it makes sense to drive through Georgia to make the road trip as easy as possible.
Traveling through Georgia with a pet Savannah cat is legal. You don’t need a permit if you’re going to spend less than 24 hours in the state and don’t plan to sell or transfer the cat while there. Driving across Georgia only takes 6–7 hours at most, but don’t plan to stay there overnight.
Moving to Georgia with a Savannah Cat
Georgia has no mechanism or license allowing you to keep a Savannah cat that you have as a pet in a state where they are legal. If you plan to move to Georgia, you will regrettably have to find a new home for your pet. You can call Georgia’s DNR or Savannah Cat Rescue for advice and help finding your cat a new home.
Why Are Savannah Cats Illegal in Georgia?
Savannah cats are illegal in Georgia for several reasons aimed at protecting communities, natural habitats, and the cats themselves. Many feel the exotic cat trade is exploitative. Legalizing Savannah cats promotes the capture of African Servals, impacting their ecosystems as much as it can affect ours.
A Savannah cat can be hazardous to neighbors and local wildlife. An escaped cat has harmed other pets and people on occasion. If they were to breed with other feral felines, these cats may also proliferate and become a nuisance. An Australian case study justified the ban on Savannah cats due to the expected increase in risk to native wildlife. Though responsible ownership is possible, Georgia is one area where the risks outweigh the benefits.
Savannah cats are illegal to own as a pet in Georgia, and there is no chance of circumventing the system to keep one in your home. The DNR holds stewardship in high regard, appreciating the incredible impact every individual can have on the state’s ecosystems. By understanding and respecting the law surrounding Savannah cat ownership in Georgia, you can make more responsible decisions to protect your community and this remarkable breed.
Featured Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock