Eganville– The search for a missing exotic animal from a sanctuary in Bonnechere Valley (BV) Township continues, while some of the other animals at the location have been removed by the Provincial Animal Welfare Service (PAWS).
Last Wednesday, October 25, the Killaloe Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) released a public safety warning after learning an African Serval Cat named Gizmo had escaped from Waddles ‘n’ Wags Zoological Haven, an animal sanctuary located on Corrigan Road in the township.
Police received a request for assistance from PAWS to attend the sanctuary and it was learned the cat had escaped.
The OPP release noted the animal has the ability to attack mid-sized livestock and pets.
As of press time on Tuesday, the animal had not been apprehended, although there had been sightings in the area. The cat is described as approximately 25 to 30 pounds and has a spotted coat with pointed ears. With its long legs and distinctive features, it is clearly distinguishable.
“Should the animal remain at large it is suspected the cat will not survive as it does not have the ability to survive the colder months ahead,” a release stated.
Police are asking members of the public to use caution in the area and report any sightings to police. If it is an emergency, the public is urged to call 911.
Meanwhile, PAWS has confirmed some other animals have been removed from the sanctuary after a compliance inspection.
“The animals are being provided shelter and have received care,” a PAWS statement read. “Given the matter is the subject of an inspection, the ministry is unable to provide further detail.”
Waddles n’ Wags did provide some updates on social media about the situation. Owner Kim Rock said Gizmo had been surrendered to the sanctuary earlier this year. The animal escaped while being transferred to his winter enclosure.
“He is a beautiful serval who was given to us in the spring because he had no proper socialization as a kitten before his owners got him and while he was super friendly with cats, dogs, he was never friendly with his humans. He didn’t attack anyone. He just hissed and went away,” the social media post stated.
“We were moving Gizmo to his winter enclosure because he didn’t appreciate the colder weather approaching,” the post continued. “Giz got spooked in his carry crate and slammed against the door. The latch broke, he fell to the ground and hit the ground running. Scared himself silly. If you’ve been here and seen the length of the legs on a serval, we had no hope of catching him.”
The post also noted there has been a lot of public backlash against Waddles ‘n Wags.
“We have actually been threatened with bodily harm at this point. This goes too far,” the post stated.
It was also noted the sanctuary has set up a live trap in the hopes of apprehending Gizmo.
Waddles n’ Wags is described on its website as a “small family run exotic rescue” which opened its doors to the public in 2006. The Centre for the Conservation of Specialized Species (CCSS) is also located on site. The website noted it believes in the 3 Cs of conservation: communication, cooperation and collaboration. As well, it was noted the facility is inspected twice a year by PAWS.
On Facebook, Waddles ‘n Wags has very positive public reviews, many visitors noting how knowledgeable the staff are and how they care for the animals.
Bonnechere Valley (BV) Township Mayor Jennifer Murphy described the situation as “extremely scary”, noting PAWS and the OPP are investigating the incident.
“I’m glad that it made it to social media quite quickly, so people were aware to keep their pets inside,” she said.
She agreed that if the escaped cat could attack mid-sized livestock and pets, as the OPP release stated, small children would not be safe either.
“A lot of the posts that were going around did say to keep your children inside as well.”
Mayor Murphy said the sanctuary is governed under a provincial licencing system, adding the township does not currently have a by-law regulating what kinds of animals can or cannot be kept in the municipality.
She said the situation is even more concerning when one considers the fact this is the second time a cat has escaped from the sanctuary in recent years.
“When I found out yesterday that it was the second time, I certainly don’t think that it’s appropriate to not have them properly contained,” she remarked.
Mayor Murphy said she had heard nothing by Thursday as to whether the cat had been seen or recaptured.
“I’ve heard nothing of any sightings,” she said. “I put our roads crew on high alert yesterday (Wednesday) because they’re always out and about, just so if they spot it they know who to call.”
She said the area is heavily wooded, so it may take some time before the missing cat is found.
Warnings were issued to both elementary schools in the village.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader