Pets are mostly unregulated at the state level, but Durham County prohibits cats other than domestic house cats, nonhuman primates, bears, wolves, coyotes, crocodilians, certain lizards, and any hybrids of these animals as “inherently dangerous.” Nearby counties are similar, but Wake seems to allow hybrid cats up to 15 pounds and Granville and Person counties don’t have prohibitions.
There may be legitimate concerns about safety, animal welfare and conservation when it comes to the keeping of large wild or domesticated animals, but hybrid cats are not inherently dangerous.
I have some experience with one hybrid breed. A family member adopted a feral cat in Asheboro and we later realized that the cat probably had an African serval in his family tree, making him a sort of Savannah cat.
We didn’t realize that hybrids were illegal at the time, and the law makes no distinction between a hybrid with a serval parent and one generations removed from a serval ancestor, as this cat appeared to be.
From a distance, he looked and acted like a domestic cat, but when I looked at his face, he did not look like an ordinary cat. He had large ears, unfortunately cut on the left to indicate that he was neutered to control the feral population, a wide nose, and a somewhat long snout. He had an unusual posture when sitting, because of his long legs, like a serval, and a long tail with jet black and gray bands. He had lines of oblong black spots down his back, similar to a serval, but servals are usually tawny while he was dark colored.
Even the banding on individual hairs seemed unusual. The back of his ears showed a faint ocelli pattern, something most wild cat species have. Most unusually, he fluffed his tail and lower back when either happy or agitated, a Savannah trait. I didn’t see him climb trees, but he climbed up doors and shelves and walked along the tops of doors, railings, and the garage.
He was named Bouncer because he was so athletic. Despite being “inherently dangerous” Bouncer was one of the gentlest and friendliest cats I have had, and did not scratch or bite, while I have been punctured by domestic cats, intentionally or not. Bouncer weighed around 10 pounds, and the neighborhood has larger domestic cats. He killed some wildlife, probably a mourning dove most recently, but this is not an issue unique to hybrids, and wildlife here evolved with presumably similar native cats.
I use the past tense because Bouncer was killed Aug. 20, 2015, probably by a swift bite to the neck by a domestic dog. I heard something but did not see the culprit, so I can’t make a complaint. A coyote is a possibility, but I doubt it, and quickly dispatching an adult cat would probably be difficult for the local gray foxes. I had a cat that disappeared, but as far as I know this is the first time an animal killed a family cat. I recall that a confined dog killed a child nearby sometime in the ’90s.
My experience is anecdotal evidence, but Savannahs seem far from dangerous. Servals, which weigh 19 to 42 pounds, are sometimes kept as pets, but they hate change, mark things and people, open doors, etc. while Savannah cats are more adapted to indoor living, and The International Cat Association recommends keeping them inside, because they tend to wander. There are also ethical issues with keeping wild animals, though captivity could aid conservation. With so many adoptable cats, it is questionable to breed more, possibly under inhumane conditions, but this cat was adopted. There are at least a few Savannahs in Asheboro and if stray hybrids are found here, are they killed?
I asked the county commissioners and Sheriff’s office to explain the ban, and they stonewalled, so there does not seem to be any rationale other than prejudice and a desire to avoid doing research.