256exotics in Huntsville, Alabama, has been cited with 10 violations of the Animal Welfare Act after a child was injured by an African serval in March.
Shelby Rood said she and her three-year-old daughter Ezlyn were shopping at 256exotics when the incident happened. Shelby said the serval was in a cage with a rope around it. She said she turned her back for a second and the cat reached out of the enclosure and grabbed Ezlyn. The serval latched onto her scalp with one paw and grabbed her back with the other paw and continued to claw her through the cage.
“I started screaming, Ezlyn was screaming and crying,” Shelby said. “I grabbed her and ran to the bathroom.”
Injuries suffered by Ezlyn Rood after being attacked by an African serval at 256exotics.
Shelby said after they exited the bathroom the owner of 256exotics, Lacey Herring, asked about what happened but did not seem concerned. She said Herring offered to show Ezlyn a dancing bird while she stood there dripping blood.
Shelby took her daughter to the emergency room. While waiting in the hospital, she contacted Herring who did not apologize for the incident and instructed her to file a police report.
Roadside Zoo News reported the incident to the U.S. Department of Agriculture who completed an inspection April 25. 256exotics was cited with one critical violation and two non-critical violations for the serval incident.
The USDA noted the serval enclosure was unsafe because the servals could reach out through gaps in the enclosure. The inspector wrote that people injured by servals can suffer from pain, fear, injury or infection. The USDA ordered 256exotics to provide strong, effective barriers between the animals and the public.
The USDA noted the serval enclosure was too small and contained no shelves, platforms, perches or elevated resting platforms. In April 2022, the female serval was pregnant and she was provided with no privacy. She failed to successfully rear her kittens and they all died.
“Serval cats that do not have the opportunity to perform natural behaviors such as resting on an elevated platform or hiding in a quiet environment during birth and nursing may suffer from stress, poor condition, debility, or abnormal behavior patterns such as losing interest in nursing offspring,” the inspector wrote.
Herring had previously pulled a 2-day-old serval kitten from its mother and contacted a veterinary technician unrelated to her veterinarian to care for the kitten but it died. No necropsy was performed on the kitten and Herring did not report the incident to her attending veterinarian.
256exotics was previously cited with two non-critical violations last September after their two servals escaped from their enclosure and were on the loose for three days.
According to the most recent inspection report, a savannah cat was limping on his front leg, the left side of his face was swollen and he had a red scab on his neck under his chin. Herring had not identified the issues and had not reported them to her veterinarian.
An adult female savannah had watery eyes, clear eye discharge, was sneezing and was mildly congested. Herring told the inspector she had noticed the issues, but had not contacted her veterinarian.
256exotics failed to follow veterinary instructions regarding flea prevention for the servals at the facility. An outdoor building housing five cats had approximately 20 nails sticking through the walls where the cats could touch them. The USDA noted the untreated wooden walls of the building did not allow for adequate cleaning. The only elevated resting platforms for the five cats were two plastic pet taxis which were not large enough for all of the cats to rest on comfortably at the same time.
Seven rabbits were living in an enclosure that was only 30 inches wide and 30 inches long. The rabbits had no water to drink and when provided with water they drank continuously for 30-60 seconds.
256exotics was ordered to have all of the violations corrected by June 1.
Download 256exotics April 2022 USDA violation report: