A woman in Carp is pushing back against a city of Ottawa bylaw that prevents residents from owning certain types of exotic animals as pets.

Margueret Lewis is urging the city to reconsider a ban on servals, a small cheetah like cat that is originally from Africa. The animal, which is commonly in zoos and largely considered a wild, exotic animal, can weigh upwards of 40 pounds, and jump up to 10 feet in the air. 

“There is no reason to worry about these cats, Lewis says. “ They (the City) thinks there will be thousands of these cats, but it will never happen. They’re too expensive to start with.” 

Lewis says servals can sell for thousands of dollars and are costly to keep. She brought the two animals to Ontario about two years ago.

“I wanted something that I can still sort of play with, like a dog, but much calmer and easier. They’re not pulling you on the leash,” she says. 

Lewis says she asked permission from both the federal government and the city of Ottawa before bringing the animals to town. In many jurisdictions, including in Ottawa, bylaws prevent residents from owning the animals as pets. But bylaws are often complicated and differ from city to city. In Toronto and Guelph, for example, servals are not explicitly banned in the bylaw, but residents are restricted from owning any Felidae, other than domestic house cats. 

“I’ve proven these cats are not dangerous,” Lewis says. “They’re trainable. Do you think I’d put my grandchildren’s’ lives at risk for an animal? Never.”