Conservation police seized a bobcat living with Swansea family last week and they say they will work to get their “valued member of the family” back home.
The Mayweather family said they have missed two-year-old Capone since he was seized by Illinois Department of Conservation Police on Sept. 28.
Conservation police said the family’s pet, however, is not a pet but classified as a dangerous animal.
“This whole thing is so crazy. Of all the people that abuse animals and own puppy mills — you took a pet, a family member,” Lakesha Mayweather said on Thursday, nearly a week after they seized Capone.
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“I wish I knew where he was and that he’s OK.”
Mayweather says 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 stated “Bobcat.”
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is investigating, a spokesman said. 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 said she’ll be talking to a lawyer next week. A petition on change.org urges the return of the bobcat to the family and a GoFundMe account was established to assist with the family’s legal costs.
“It’s illegal to posses a bobcat in the state of Illinois under the wildlife code,” said Spokesman Tim Schweizer. “We always want to encourage people to distinguish between wildlife and pets ... it’s an important distinction to make.”
Katie Brown, Mayweather’s mother, said that Capone was a registered emotional support animal that the family made conservation police aware of that when he was seized. IDNR could not confirm this as of Thursday afternoon.
Schweizer said Capone is being well-cared for at an undisclosed licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility. He could not say how many bobcats are currently housed at such facilities in Illinois.
It is legal with a permit to hunt and trap bobcats, Schweizer said. He added that 314 such “harvests” were made statewide last year.
There’s “no expectation” that Capone will be euthanized, Schweizer said.
“If there’s any concern that the animal will be harmed or put down, rest assured that is not our intention.”
Mayweather, 44, says she has wanted a bobcat since she was 13 and saw photos of a lynx and a bobcat in a book.
“Oh my gosh this is the most beautiful animal I’ve ever seen,” she remembered thinking.
After filling out information found with IDNR, she said, and finding a vet that could treat him, she paid $1800 to a breeder in Missouri to get Capone. She’s had him since he was 3 months old.
Missouri does allow captive bobcats and the breeding of captive bobcats, said a Missouri Department of Conservation spokesperson.
“You can’t go and catch wild bobcats and raise them,” Joe Jerek said.
But wildlife breeders in Missouri are allowed to breed and sell bobcats. However, they are allowed to sell the animals to “only to a holder of an appropriate permit,” Jerek said. It is up to the buyer to ensure the animal is legal in his or her state.
“Our breeders don’t go into your state statutes,” the Missouri agent said.
Mayweather said she had taken Capone to a new vet on Sept. 27, she said, and the conservation police were at her home the next day. The officer let her put Capone’s leash on him and put him in his carrier, she said.
And Capone got to keep “Bubby” with him.
“Bubby is Capone’s best friend,” she said of the blue cotton toy. “He sleeps with him, carries him around, talks to him.”
Mayweather says her daughter, 10, and son, 17, also miss Capone. She said her daughter is going to bed early because Capone isn’t at home to play with at night.
He acts much like a puppy, Mayweather said.
“He rolls on the floor with my son, jumps on his back, walks on a leash, he’s very well trained,” she said. He eats raw meats, Mayweather said. She feeds him his favorite, beef stew meat, with a fork.
“I don’t know what went wrong,” she said.
“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.