Illinois Plans to Prohibit Ownership of Exotic Wild Animals Following Serval Incidents

Estimated read time 3 min read

Illinois has recently experienced worrisome incidents with wild animals escaping from private residences. These events have prompted a statewide effort by legislators to address the issue of owning exotic pets, viewed by many as a rising public safety problem. A serval, a medium sized wild African cat with large ears, got loose in Decatur last fall. It was on the loose around two months. Another incident in Vernon Hills involved another serval causing havoc in a community. Both instances have triggered urgent legislative actions.


Suggested Legal Actions

State Rep. Daniel Didech (D59) is leading an effort in the legislature to limit ownership of exotic pets in Illinois. The proposed law targets various animals frequently kept as unusual pets such as servals, kangaroos, caracals, and wallabies. Despite their appeal and social media popularity, Didech emphasized that these creatures remain inappropriate and risky for home environments. “People often overlook the real risks posed by exotic pets due to their attraction value,” said Didech.


Bill’s Objectives and Terms

The legislation seeks to modify the 2012 criminal code to outlaw owning these animals including hybrid species like savannah cats which are serval domestic cat hybrids. However, current savannah cat owners can keep their pets under this law’s provisions which allows exceptions for federally licensed facilities, animal hospitals, or film/TV productions employing these species handled by professional handlers.


Backing and Opposition

The bill is backed significantly by animal control professionals and wildlife enthusiasts who view it as an essential step towards public safety and animal care improvement measures. Ronald Atkins from Macon County Animal Control suggested that more defined laws would greatly help enforcement endeavors and boost community safety.

However, certain groups oppose the bill, especially Republicans like Rep. Tony McCombie (R89), who feel that focusing on exotic animal bans distracts from more urgent issues. McCombie was quoted saying, “Prioritizing banning exotic pets detracts from the need to address vital economic and crime problems.”


Cases Advocating Legislation Necessity

Recent serval events underscored the hazards of keeping wild animals in homes,

  • A serval’s attacking behavior frightened a Vernon Hills community in November 2023.
  • Another serval got away from a Decatur residence in October 2023, resulting in an extensive capture operation.

These happenings emphasized the unpredictable and dangerous nature of owning exotic pets thus calling for legal action.


Risks Comparison and Legislative Discussions

The debate surrounding the suggested law also referenced risks tied to owning common pets such as dogs. People opposing the legislation like State Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) cited Illinois’ high national dog bite statistics as proof that focusing solely on exotic animals overlooks larger public safety issues related to pet ownership.


Next Actions and Consequences

The bill successfully made it through the Illinois House and is presently being reviewed by the Senate. If passed, it’ll take effect on January 1, 2025, allowing current owners of these creatures enough time to adhere to new rules. The law aims at addressing immediate public safety issues but also changes how we perceive and regulate exotic animals at home.



This bid to ban certain types of animals’ ownership reflects our growing understanding about animal welfare and public safety. This bill’s results could influence other legal actions across the US, marking a paradigm shift in managing human animal cohabitation. This legal movement highlights a broader societal trend of committing to more responsible and educated handling of wildlife and pet ownership.

Celina Brooks

Celina Brooks from Mussoorie is a Writer & Researcher. She earned her Engineering degree in IT from Rutgers University. She is a technology enthusiast but loves writing and talking about local news as well. She is a jolly person with 2 children.

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