Family Fights to Keep Emotional Support Bobcat

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

One Illinois family says they are heartbroken after conservation officers seized their pet bobcat, which is also a registered emotional support animal. The bobcat named Capone was taken by the Illinois Department of Conservation Police on Sept. 28, 2018. 

Mayweather told the Belleville News-Democrat she applied for a permit to own the bobcat and has renewed that permit with the state of Illinois. She says the permit application clearly states “Bobcat.”

But owning a bobcat in Illinois is illegal in all cases and Mayweather has been ticketed with unlawful possession of a dangerous animal and unlawful import of a dangerous species. The misdemeanor charges carry a jail term of up to 30 days in jail.

Mayweather is fighting to get Capone back and said she will be talking to a lawyer. 

She took her pet bobcat Capone to a new veterinarian in September, and the next day a state conservation officer showed up at her home to confiscate Capone.

Mayweather, 44, says she has wanted a bobcat since she was a child. After filling out information found with IDNR and finding a vet that could treat him, she paid $1,800 to a breeder in Missouri to get Capone, which was 3 months old at the time.

Wildlife breeders in Missouri are allowed to breed and sell bobcats to those who hold an appropriate permit.

Tim Schweizer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says it's usually illegal to own bobcats in the state.

“There are some circumstances like zoos who are able to have animals of this type," he said. "But, for individuals, we need to remind people that there is a distinct difference between possessing pets and possessing wildlife in Illinois. Under state law, bobcats are considered wildlife and dangerous animals and cannot be possessed by individuals."

Mayweather says she doesn't understand what went wrong.

“I want to know why they gave us these permits if they’re not legal in Illinois. If we would have known that two years ago, we never would have got it,” she said.

This case is still under investigation and Capone is currently being cared for at an undisclosed facility.

The Mayweathers say they feel as if they've lost more than a family member or pet since Capone is an emotional support animal.

“He wouldn’t leave my side. He was always there. He would always try to calm me down," Mayweather said.

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