Royal Oak woman sends caracals to a roadside zoo; city enacts moratorium on non-domestic animals


Four African caracals have been sent to Indian Creek Zoo after escaping several times from a Royal Oak, MI, home.

The owner of four African caracals that escaped at least three times in Royal Oak, MI, has reportedly moved the animals to a roadside zoo and the city has enacted a moratorium on caracals and other non-domestic animals.


Elaine Westfall kept the African wildcats at her residence in suburban Detroit. She planned to breed the caracals under the name Wild At Heart Exotics, according to her Facebook page.


On Oct. 13, police were called to Westfall’s home after “several large African caracal cats” had escaped. Two cats were found in an “unsecured” enclosure at the home, and a third cat was located and lured back to the home using raw meat. The fourth cat was loose for hours near an elementary school and was eventually captured in a live trap. Police said it was at least the third time the caracals had escaped from the residence.


Westfall was issued five citations for the incident and she was ordered to remove the caracals from the city by Oct. 18. The Wildcat Sanctuary offered Westfall free transportation and lifetime placement for the caracals at their Sandstone, MN, sanctuary.



News reports indicate Westfall removed the cats from the city, but her lawyer told the Royal Oak Tribune that Westfall had a right to return with the cats because there were no ordinances in place that prohibit them.


The Tribune reported last week that the city has now enacted a moratorium on caracals and other non-domestic animals. City Manager Paul Brake told the Tribune that the moratorium will be in place until the city can draft and enact an ordinance to address non-domestic animals kept as pets.


Brake told the Tribune that Westfall has moved the caracals to Indian Creek Zoo in Lambertville, MI.



Indian Creek Zoo is a roadside zoo that’s been cited for several direct and critical Animal Welfare Act violations in the past year.


USDA inspection reports indicate that in Nov. 2020, an olive baboon reached out of its enclosure at Indian Creek Zoo, grabbed an employee’s hand and bit it.


During a Feb. 2021 USDA inspection, several animal enclosures reeked of ammonia and contained a “significant amount” of rodent droppings. The inspector found a tayra, a species of weasel that can weigh up to fifteen pounds, that had hair loss and reddened, thickened skin and the issue had not been reported to the attending veterinarian.


In June, the inspector found a rabbit that had escaped from its enclosure and was running loose at the facility. In July, a porcupine escaped from its enclosure and was not recovered.


In August, the inspector identified numerous animals with untreated medical conditions. A rabbit had hair loss on her ear and neck and the skin was thickened and crusty. A goat was holding up its right front leg and the joint appeared swollen. The facility had not notified their veterinarian of the condition of either of the animals.


A large portion of the white-tailed deer herd had hair loss that included patchy spots over their neck, chest and abdomen. A portion of the white-tailed deer herd and a blackbuck antelope had overgrown hooves. Two deer were observed to be thin. Another deer was thin and had feces staining its hocks and back legs and a brownish liquid was seen rolling down the front part of its rear leg.


The USDA inspector noted that Indian Creek Zoo’s failure to observe medical problems in their animals and communicate those problems to a veterinarian could result in prolonged pain, suffering and even death.


From Feb. 2021-Aug. 2021 the facility was cited with three non-critical violations, two critical violations and two direct violations.



It is unclear if Westfall plans to permanently place her four caracals at Indian Creek Zoo but according to the Wild At Heart Exotics page, the business is now listed as permanently closed.