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Are Savannah Cats Legal In Australia? [What You Have To Know]

Are you an Australian resident, or soon to migrate over, and wondering whether you can own a Savannah cat there? Well, here is what the law states on ownership of this particular, hybrid breed.

So, are Savannah cats legal in Australia? Savannah cats are not legal in Australia. They were banned from importation by the Australian government in 2008, where legislation remains in place to date. These hybrid cats are banned as they are seen as a significant risk to Australian wildlife and the environment.

In fact, Savannah cats have never been allowed into Australia.

They originate from the United States, after all.

Interestingly, a Queensland-based company, called ‘Savannah Cats Australia’ were never able to introduce this breed into the country.

They applied, but it was soon rejected.

And it brought about fundamental changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

It even resulted in a lawsuit, well at least according to PetDirectory.com.au.

Nevertheless, this is not a breed you can, or would even likely want to own due to the laws now firmly in place.

But why were these laws introduced, to begin with?

Let’s find out!

Why Are Savannah Cats Banned In Australia?

Savannah cats are banned in Australia as they are perceived as a significant risk to native wildlife and the environment. It is believed that if these hybrid cats were released, they would contribute to the extinction and decline of native species.

And they would likely do so in two different ways, at least according to government publications:

  • There would be increased predation on small and medium-sized native species.
  • Savannah cats may breed with feral cats, providing genetic characteristics such as increased size and hunting efficiency.

Both are two different means to a similar issue.

But is this conclusion even fair?

Well, a 2019 research paper published in the journal Animals, titled ‘Assessing Risks to Wildlife from Free-Roaming Hybrid Cats: The Proposed Introduction of Pet Savannah Cats to Australia as a Case Study, stated the following:

Assuming that savannah cats hunt similar prey to those that are hunted by both parent species, we estimate that 91% of Australia’s extant terrestrial mammal fauna would likely face some risk of predation from savannah cats, including 93% of non-volant mammal species that have threatened conservation status. The framework results strongly validate the decision to ban savannah cats from Australia

And that study was conducted 11 years on from the original ruling by the Australian government.

But of course, this conclusion is based on the release of Savannah cats into the wild.

Well, according to wildlife shelters in the United States (where these cats originate), this breed is often surrendered or released due to being challenging to care for and some of the behaviors they can exhibit, such as aggression.

They can also jump extreme heights, (up to 2.5 meters from a still position) and often learn how to open doors. Both of which make them challenging to contain.

And this is all due to the fact that Savannahs, along with other hybrids, were initially bred with wild serval cats.

This makes them much larger, often 2-3x the size of your standard domestic cat.

And if it is if these cats are released that they pose the real ‘biosecurity risk’

To the extent where the legal requirements are very strict.

Take this notice from the Queensland government, for instance:

Legal Requirements

* Savannah cat is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

* You must not keep, move, give away, sell or release into the environment. Penalties may apply.

* You must not take any action reasonably likely to exacerbate the biosecurity threat posed by savannah cats.

* You must take any action that is reasonably likely to minimise the biosecurity threat posed by savannah cats.

* You must report all sightings to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.

As you can see, it’s pretty serious to own, see or be in possession of a Savannah in Australia.

But when the 2019 research would also conclude this, it’s not surprising to see why:

Our results strongly support the precautionary approach that was taken at the time, and they provide post hoc confirmation that a very large proportion of the extant mammal fauna of the continent would have been susceptible to predation by savannah cats if erstwhile pets escaped and established in the wild. It was a good decision, which was made with careful consideration of limited evidence and appropriate consideration of risk, by a prudent government agency, and supported by the relevant Minister

Are Other Hybrid Cat Breeds Illegal In Australia?

Most other hybrid cat breeds are illegal in Australia, with the exception of the Bengal cat, which has been imported into Australia since 1996.

Bengal cats may be imported into Australia if the animal is five generations or more removed from the Asian Leopard cat.

This is otherwise known as an F5 hybrid.

In regards to the F, this simply means filial generation.

Or in other words, how many times removed a cat is from its wild, African Serval ancestry. 

It is generally perceived that the earlier generations are more like their former wild counterparts, and later generations are more domesticated.

Even then, if you are looking for a Bengal cat – there are also some pretty strict regulations in place.

And in regards to importation, in particular, proof of ancestry will be required – you will need official pedigree papers for the cat.

These will need to go back at least 4 generations.

This is all regulated by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the Biosecurity Act 2015.

It is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment and applies to the import of live animals.

In fact, all hybrid animals, not just cats or pets, are regulated.

So much so that the only hybrid currently on the Live Import List is the mule/hinny (horse x donkey).

Finally

Australia has some pretty stringent pet ownership and animal importation laws.

And that, unfortunately, rules out the Savannah breed.

In fact, if you are looking to own any pet in Australia, it’s best to check in with the authorities and consult the laws and regulations first.

Even animals that are considered relatively harmless, like hamsters and hedgehogs, are illegal.

So do be careful and mindful in your search.

Go through the proper channels.

But if you are still keen on a unique breed of cat, then you can always consider the Bengal.

It will legally allow you to have a stunning hybrid – not too dissimilar from the Savannah.

The Bengal cat is an exception to the general policy.