New Yorker gets prison time for exotic cat trafficking; some were same breed that got loose in Royal Oak

New York man gets 18 months in prison for trafficking caracals, servals

Caracal cats owned by a resident in Royal Oak. (WDIV)

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A New York man was sentenced to prison for trafficking exotic African cats -- some of which were the same breed as the ones that escaped from a home in Royal Oak last week, authorities said.

Cats escape in Royal Oak

A Royal Oak woman was issued five tickets after four African caracal cats escaped from her home, and police said this wasn’t the first time the cats got out. Even after “Bam Bam” -- the last of the cats to be recovered -- returned home, questions lingered about the woman’s ownership of these African cats.

An example image of African caracals. (Royal Oak Schools)

Police said that due to the woman’s “inability to keep the animals contained on her property,” the department encouraged her to move them to a more suitable environment. The woman agreed and contracted a transportation company to have them relocated, according to authorities.

New York man sentenced

On Tuesday (Oct. 19), Christopher Casacci, 39, of Amherst, New York, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violating the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act by trafficking African wild cats, the United States Department of Justice announced.

“The purpose of the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act is to protect fish, wildlife and other animals, especially those that may be endangered, from individuals who seek to profit from trafficking,” U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross said. “Enforcing these measures is important to ensure that animals, such as the exotic African cats in this case, are safeguarded.”

Officials said Casacci advertised, imported and sold exotic African cats through “” between February 2018 and June 2018.

Casacci is accused of importing and selling dozens of caracals and servals for $7,500-$10,000 each, according to authorities.

He claimed he was operating as a big cat rescue organization to avoid punishment, officials said.

Casacci is also accused of falsifying transport documents to hide the true species of the cats, calling them bengal or Savannah cats instead of identifying the true species, federal authorities said.

He was not approved to sell the cats under the Animal Welfare Act, according to officials.

“Selling wild animals as pets not only breaks the law, but also endangers local communities and environments,” said assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

More about the case

Also known as the “desert lynx,” caracals grow to about 45 pounds, officials said. Casacci is accused of marketing them as “house pets.”

Both caracals and servals are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and their commercial possession and sale is restricted under New York law, according to federal authorities.

Officials said multiple kittens imported by Casacci died while in his care or days after he sold them, and many others were seized from him during the investigation.

The cats seized during the investigation are permanently staying in accredited animal sanctuaries, officials said.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.