A New York man pleaded guilty today to violating the Lacey Act and the U.S. Animal Welfare Act based on his trafficking of African wild cats in interstate commerce.
According to court documents, Christopher Casacci, 38, of Amherst, was doing business as “ExoticCubs.com,” through which he advertised, imported and sold exotic African cats. Between February and June 2018, Casacci imported and sold dozens of caracals (Caracal caracal) and servals (Leptailurus serval), for $7,500 to $10,000 each.
According to filings, Casacci claimed that he was a big cat rescue organization in an attempt to avoid prohibitions against possessing and selling wild animals. Casacci also falsified transport documents to hide the true species of the cats, instead calling the animals domestic crossbreeds, such as Bengal cats or Savannah cats.
Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa, and typically grow to approximately 45 pounds. Servals, also wild cats native to Africa, grow to approximately 40 pounds.
All of the animals were sold while still kittens, and despite their size and wild nature, Casacci marketed them “house pets.” Both species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale is restricted under New York state law.
People and businesses dealing in animals are required to comply with humane care standards under the Animal Welfare Act. Casacci failed to do so and failed to secure the necessary license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Casacci was charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act for selling animals without a license showing minimum compliance with humane treatment standards.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. for the Western District of New York made the announcement.
Casacci was previously indicted for his actions in January of 2020. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ryan Noel, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Patrick Duggan of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango.