Animal Legal Defense Fund, Cat Sanctuaries Ask California Fish and Wildlife to Regulate Hybrid “Franken-Cats”

Posted on June 26, 2014

Pricey Wild Crossed Breeds Often Abandoned, Pose Threat to the Public and Wildlife

For immediate release:

Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF

bengal-cat-cc-furlined-article-image-230pxSACRAMENTO – Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), with co-petitioners Big Cat Rescue, Born Free USA, WildCat Haven, and Wildcat Sanctuary, submitted a petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) proposing a rule to amend regulations regarding the breeding and possession of controversial “hybrid” cats. These cats are a result of interbreeding domestic cats with exotic cats. ALDF argues that these hybrid breeds, like Savannahs and Bengals, are unregulated and pose a threat to public health, native wildlife, and animal welfare in California. These trendy “Franken-felines”—popularized by high-profile owners like Kourtney Kardashian and Kristen Stewart—have sold for tens of thousands of dollars, as breeders seek to create a pet with the appearance of a wild animal. This interbreeding creates new dangers as wild cats integrate into domestic settings. Many states have imposed restrictions on hybrid cats; Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Rhode Island, ban hybrid cats outright, as do Australia and New Zealand.

These larger than average cats often grow up to spray, bite, and otherwise wreak havoc. Because of this, hybrid cats are at increased risk of abandonment by owners unprepared for their wild behavior. Animal shelters are hesitant to take these dangerous animals in because of the unlikelihood of their adoption. Public health concerns include increased aggressiveness and lack of an approved rabies vaccine. Native wildlife is also threatened by the presence of hybrid cats, who possess amplified hunting prowess. ALDF’s proposed amendments ensure that California’s regulation of hybrid cats, found in 14 C.C.R. § 671, follows the state legislature’s requirements to restrict wild animals who are a “menace to native wildlife” or whose possession threatens animal welfare under Cal. Fish & Game Code §§ 2118 & 2118(i).

“Some people are drawn to the idea of owning an exotic-looking animal, but breeding these undomesticated cats causes problems for wildlife and for public safety,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Wild animals should not be fads or status symbols, and there are too many tragic endings for the cats and for the families who purchase these high-priced hybrids bred for profit.”

Copies of the petition are available upon request.

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27 thoughts on “Animal Legal Defense Fund, Cat Sanctuaries Ask California Fish and Wildlife to Regulate Hybrid “Franken-Cats”

  1. Bonnie says:

    I am glad you are doing this. Will you be working on this in the other 49 states or on federal legislation? I would like a copy of the petition so I can submit one here in Colorado to our legislature. Thank you.

  2. Susan LeRoy says:

    I would like a copy of the petition to circulate in my area (central/Southern California). I rescue purebred Bengal cats and know first hand why these cats should not be bred. Breeders get in trouble financially, cats get sick so they are not able to sell them, breeders become HOARDERS and then we who rescue have to clean up their mess.

    THANK YOU for taking this step.
    Susan LeRoy
    Santa Barbara, CA

  3. Laura Sheffield says:

    I agree we should have a no go on the interbreeding of these cats. The end isn’t good for the environment, the cats, or the people who own them. They end up bonding with animal and person and it’s quite devastating to a family/cat who loves their pet/owners just to have them turn on them one day. In the end the cats will likely end up at a sanctuary for their life (which is no life a cat should have to live), or euthanized. Neither are acceptable solutions for the ending of the breeding. Thank you for taking the time for this worthy cause.

  4. Sherrie Guevin says:

    I owned one of these cats and he was the best cat ever! I think it depends on the owner on how the animal turns out, and in my oppion they should be legal!

  5. N. B. says:

    I have two SBT (later than F3) Bengals – both rescues via Bengal Rescue Network – so I find this blanket condemnation of all hybrid cats as monsters not just ignorant, but irresponsible.

    While I’m all for stopping the reckless breeding of these hybrid cats (there are plenty of cats in shelters that need a loving home; I’m not a fan of caging wild animals – they belong in the wild, or in the very least a spacious preserve of some sort; I’ve read that breeding exotic hybrids can be risky, sometimes resulting in death to the domesticated cat; and because idiots who don’t bother to understand what they are getting into keep buying or adopting these amazing creatures (or worse, take up breeding), only to abandon them.

    While it should require special permitting to own early generation hybrids (F1-F3), outright bans, at least of existing animals isn’t right. There needs to at least be a grandfather clause for the late-gen (SBT) Bengals and other late-gen hybrids, or you’ll be forcing pet owners to abandon perfectly loving (and harmless) pets.

    As for Susan LeRoy, what she stated can happen with ANY breeder – that situation is by no means limited to exotic hybrids. Hoarding can be a problem even with rescue animals of no specific breed at all. That is human mental illness – not due to exotic hybrids.

    My two rescue SBT Bengals are perfectly “normal” cats, other than the fact that they have spots instead of stripes, and that they are smarter than average. One is very energetic and likes being entertained when he’s bored (although he also loves to crawl on my lap, gaze at me adoringly, and make biscuits), while the other is more of a couch potato. They both love kisses and tummy rubs. They’re not large (my DSH kitties were much larger, as is our Ragdoll), they don’t bite (not once in over a decade with them), they never randomly strike out and scratch (none of my cats ever have – unlike many “regular” cats I’ve met in my lifetime – I blame poor pet owners), I rarely have litter box issues (and that is a risk with ANY housepet, not just hybrids) and every vet (and their staff) has oohed and ahhhed over what good, sweet boys they are.

    In contrast, my pint-sized DSH tabby, Tigger, had the word “CAUTION” written across the outside of his medical charts in giant letters. It would take upwards of four or five vet techs to manage a simple blood draw.

    All of my cats have always been indoor only – and if I had been inclined to let them outdoors off harness and leash (rest assured, it will never happen), my Bengals would be no more damaging to the environment than any domesticated cat – which is why ALL house cats belong indoors, where they won’t harm songbird populations or risk falling prey to cars, predators, parasites, or evil people.

    Don’t demonize hybrids because of the actions of irresponsible people. While these healthy, intelligent, active cats aren’t for everyone (they can be a bit demanding!), they are sweet, special, loving creatures. I can’t imagine my life without my two boys.

  6. Kat Gagliano says:

    I am trying to find out how to get a copy of the petition.
    I am formally requesting one if this is the only place to request??
    I live in California and I disagree with this broad approach. Lots of generalization and demonizing of these cats in the article. Rescues see problem cats of all breeds, not just hybrid cats.

  7. Helen says:

    I have had a Bengal for over 9 years now and I am appalled at your descriptions of the breed. Whilst I appreciated early generations may not be for everyone, my F5 is one of the most loving, energetic and friendly cats I have ever had the pleasure to own. As a responsible owner I did, of course, research the breed prior to owning one. I also chose the breeder carefully. Perhaps this is what you need to educate people with, not poorly researched and factually incorrect scaremongering! And for the record, my other cat is a moggy who I saved from an irresponsible owner. He is by far the better hunter and the scaredy cat who, when feels threatened, can attack. Publicity like yours only serves to cause more acts of cruelty/abandonment; shame on you all.

  8. Tracy Light says:

    Animal breeding should be made illegal, full stop..It’s all about money and greed..Leave nature alone, to happen NATURALLY – not force different breeds to be together..!

  9. Danielle Gionet says:

    This is the stupidest thing ive ever read!bengal have been around for awhile, and theres nothing wrong with that! I have a f3 my self and hes my baby! I dare someone to try and take him away from me… california what is happenning with you?! Its not a crime to have a cat! Its not a lion or a tiger. Its a small cat for f*** sake!

  10. james campanelli says:

    As an owner of a bengal and a savannah (both rescues) I wholeheartedly disagree with both your assessment of the breeds and your reactions regarding banning and regulating. While the breeds concerned are not a good match for all pet owners the numbers of mongrel dogs and cats in shelters and rescues far outweigh the numbers of hybrid cats of all generations and breeds combined. As a poodle is not the right choice pet for me a husky is, as is a savannah cat and a bengal. I’m very pleased there were caring rescue people that helped me provide a home for them rather than a sanctuary as neither cat deserves to be housed in an enclosure and treated like a wild animal. As the federal government considers all young produced from the union of a wild animal with a domestic animal as domestic themselves,there is really no need for a wild cat sanctuary to get involved in this matter. You may as well turn your sights on all domestic animal production and sales. At least then your agenda would be transparrent and honest. On the whole I have found the hybrid cat communi tug to be far more helpful than any of the domestic rescues I have worked with in providing solutions and resources for behavior issues. Having worked with many wild species in many settings I can say that a cat is a cat is a cat regardless of species. They are all built the same.
    Size is one of the few variables. Regarding them being a danger to the public I suggest you research the effects of even a medium size dog attack as compared to a house cat. Then accept both the truths of the hybrid cat size being well within the house cat size range and the abject ridiculous nature of your claim that they are atcall a danger to the public. Understand that your experience and sample size is very limited and skewed in one direction. Why not rescue one of these wonderful creatures and let it teach you another way. It has already been shown that education notvmisinformation and propaganda is a better tool for bringing about change. Your efforts would be better dpent educating people on responsibly researching breeds and species before making purchases while providing behsvior solutions if problems arise. The community of tesponsible pet breeders csn help you in your search for knowledge and experience.

  11. Candyce Poss says:

    Please, I would very much like a copy of the petition.

  12. Sam says:

    While their marketing has been misleading, Bengals are actually a mix of domestic breeds, not wild cat hybrids.

  13. Rhana Wyble says:

    First off inter-breeding is just wrong and that’s the fact. No one should be breeding any cats period, while there are so many needing to be adopted in shelters or kittens being abandoned. People that buy breed do it for status, showing off. I would love to have a Himalayan, but I don’t. I have 5 cats I rescued one way or another. Do any of u think about how many of these kittens or cats or killed at these shelters every day.

  14. Matt says:

    You’ve used my photograph of a Bengal on this piece (my flickr id is FurLined) – the image in question is one I put under a creative commons license so anyone is free to use it and I can’t prevent you from using it, but I disapprove of your use of it here on a piece which seeks to make gross generalisations about hybrid breeds.

    It particularly disappoints me that your article makes no distinction between early generation hybrids and later generation offspring.

    The Bengal in my photo is a very sweet male – he’s many generations removed from an original crossing – and he’s the father of my own Bengal who is also a very sweet cat. My Bengal, being a later generation, was no more expensive than any other purebred cat from a reputable GCCF registered breeder. I’ve owned Abyssinians and have a good friend who had Siamese cats – my own experience of those intelligent energetic breeds is that owning a later generation Bengal is no more demanding than either of those other breeds.

    There can be behavioural problems with any breed of cat – a factor in it is the breeder properly socialising the cat and how the owners look after the cat.

    Any “trendy” cat or dog breed is at risk of owners who are more interested in the animal as an accessory and who don’t bother to educate themselves about the animals needs. Some dog breeds have suffered from an undeserved reputation of being “dangerous” because their image has made them attractive to the kinds of people who do not properly look after them – it is not the fault of the animal or the breed. I imagine if any of the cat breeds with traits of intelligence and higher energy levels became particularly fashionable you would have problems of unwanted cats with behavioural issues.

    You mentioned Australia and New Zealand as examples of countries with restrictions (I note that Australia has an exemption for the Bengal breed). I live in the United Kingdom which takes a more pragmatic approach to breeds like the Bengal and the Savannah – a distinction is made for F1 (with a wild animal license being required for F1).

  15. Kate Hendra says:

    Perhaps we should start a petition that bans any animal that might occasionally scratch, kick, bite – lets say dogs, horses, guinea pigs, hamsters, canaries, chinchilla, the list goes on, and once the ridiculousness of that ban has been introduced we should start on fleas, mosquitoes and any other DELIBERATELY biting animal that can spread blood born diseases……..
    The idiocy and ignorance of some people and organisations never ceases to amaze me.

  16. Anne Beaverson says:

    This petition is not based on facts. I have an amazing Bengal who walks on a leash, is an indoor cat and lives with 5 other cats. Four of the other cats were rescued directly from the wild streets of Seattle as kittens. My Bengal has never been aggressive and gets along with the other cats. I am an experienced cat owner and a psychiatric nurse so perhaps have the skills needed to ensure a good home for a Bengal. More research is needed on the exact circumstances in these homes when problems arose. Even watching “My cat from Hell” reveals how many domestic cats and cats of all breeds in California easily develop severe problems when suffering from ignorant owners

  17. elli says:

    I own both the savannah and the bengal both f1 generation. If you compare my cats personality to the ones shown on TV with my cats from hell. There s no comparison. They are both being early generation very calm. If they don’t like someone or something, they just simply go to their room.

    How man cats attack a human compared to dogs. Theses are small cats not like a lion or tiger. I grew up with an African serval in florida, has it attacked or hurt anyone, never. There s no threat here California, Pitt bulls and other big dogs should be what you re banning.

    For those of you who are stupid enough to give the government more authority to regulate which pet you should own go for it. Aren’t you being regulated enough?

  18. Pam says:

    This is flat out ridiculous! Bengals have been a breed for 30 years; and are perfectly wonderful felines! We have three, one is an early generation F2 and absolutely couldn’t have a better, smarter, well behaved cat. I suspect that an uneducated public is being duped for the purpose of being preyed upon for donations to support these special interest groups who show a few cases of misbehaved, mistreated Hybrids to further their agenda for more money in their coffers. There are everyday domestic cats that have the same issues being touted here. Educate yourself people, before being used as a pawn for ulterior motivated people – signed, Cat Behaviorist.

    1. elli says:

      I agree both my f1 s are super friendly and loves kids and people. I ve seen my friends domestic cats acting aggressively towards people. Someone needs to educate Big Cat rescue about hybrids and small cats like asian leopards and serval. Evidently they are not educated enough. I see people losing their pet serval and Asian leopards because of stupid laws like this that ignorant people who don’t understand the breed. Big cat rescue have Stella the serval. Stella was taken away from her home. Though they admit that Stella has a loving home but they still took her. Imagine how Stella s owner feels. And oh big cat rescue made a rescue. Yeah it s more like stealing a happy life from a cat and her loved ones.

  19. Pam says:

    I play a small role in cat rescue but my organization, ( plays larger one. There is an amazing story of the rescue of almost 20 Bengals from an irresponsible breeder last year. No unundomesticated animals were involved. You can find it on our Web site. These cats have been adopted to loving homes.

    There are plenty of 3rd, 4th 5th, 6th generation papered Bengals now. No one need breed from a wild cat to obtain a delightful Bengal creature. If you want to regulate the breeding of wild to domesticated, fine, but leave our precious descendent house cats alone.

    Pam VA

    1. elli says:

      People should have the right to do what they want to regardless. How many domestic and dogs needing rehoming. There s always irresponsible owners out there. Regardless of the breed or animal. Regulating the breeders isn’t going to change irresponsible owners. The breeders should be allowed to breed as they wish.

  20. Jerry Ingalls says:

    Please forward me a copy of the petition. Also, please forward me the name of the individual and organization he or she is affiliated with that introduced the ass-nine phrase Hybrid ‘Franken-Cat’ into what should be a logical and non-emotional conversation. I need to research their real qualifications and history of education and employment.

    What are the true motivations by these groups and misrepresentations they have put forth regarding these breeds and individuals who own them.

    Thank you James Campenelli and Pam for your rational comments.


  21. Bill says:

    Please forward a copy of the petition to me. Thanks.

  22. Deborah Frierson says:

    I cannot understand why the negative propaganda about Bengals and Savannahs persists without being backed up by irrefutable proof. These two breeds are not more predatory than other domestic cats and their hunting prowess is equal to other domestic cats at best.

    Any animal who is abused, regardless of genetics, may be aggressive or act out in fear. Savannahs do tend to bond closely with their humans and when they are ripped from their homes (“rescued” is the term used by animal rights groups) and put into “sanctuaries” they are filmed at their worst — frightened to death — and used as examples of how allegedly wild and dangerous they are. This habit of feeding a gullible and fear-oriented public contrived information is unethical, immoral, and unconscionable. The heartbreaking irony is that this type of hype harms those these animal rights groups and sanctuaries claim they want to protect.

    Please get your heads out of your arses and use your money to actually help in ways that are proactive rather than destructive.

  23. Nicole says:

    I own three Savannah cats. Two of the three are considered purebred and are eligible for TICA registration as they are more than 3 generations removed from anything other than a Savannah cat parent.

    I am sorry to contradict the author of this press release, but having worked for a vet for three years, and volunteered for the SPCA for two now, I respectfully suggest that Bengals and Savannah cats have no different behavior or temper than an average domestic house cat. They are sweet, cuddly, and alternatively adventurous and shy, depending on the situation. Like all cats, some will be shy, and some outgoing. Like all animals, their personalities are impacted by their homes. To make a generalization that Savannahs and Bengals spray, bite, and wreak havoc is to make a statement which is not backed up by fact. I have three Savannahs, all of whom use litter boxes. I have been bitten by a cat once- by a foster domestic shorthair, not by a Savannah. Savannahs and Bengals wreak no more havoc than a domestic shorthair.
    My crystal remains intact, my cushions unripped, by carpets unsoiled.

    Additionally, to present the position that a rabies vaccine is not available is pure fearmongering. All three of my cats are vaccinated for rabies. They present no public health risk, and they present no risk to the wildlife in my area as they are house cats. They do not leave the house unless they are wearing a leash and a harness, or in a carrier, ever. If you saw two of them, you would have no idea they were not domestic shorthairs- two of my three look just like kitties from the shelter, one is black, the other mostly white and grey, and are of average size. Most Savannahs and bengals are not larger than the average house cat. One of my three is a Certified Therapy Pet who passed therapy pet testing, and visits nursing homes with me. All three are trustworthy with my young niece, and one of the last things that made my grandmother smile before she died of advanced alzthimers was having my F5 Savannah jump into her lap, and purr. She didn’t respond to us at that stage, but the cat made her smile. That is what led me to pursue pet therapy certification- the realization that I owned an animal that was gentile, friendly, calm, and capable of bringing joy to someone at the end of their journey.

    I respectfully suggest that the author of this press release come and meet a savannah or a bengal who lives in a happy home, and then make a decision. I would happily host you. I assure you these cats are just cats, some in fancy coats, but most just pampered, loved house cats.

  24. Stormi says:

    This petition is based off of no facts, now is it? Shall we start banning every animal that bites? No. So why try to ban these loveable animals? There are bad owners when it comes to any animal- not just hybrids.

  25. Jacqueine says:

    Here is a link to a video that shows the REAL personalities of savannah cats.

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