The serval cat is a dangerous predator that cannot normally be bought in Britain as a domestic pet (Picture: SWNS)

The owner of a dangerous wildcat spotted looking out of the window in a residential street has been fined thousands of pounds by authorities.

Residents in Balham, south London, were shocked after realising the powerful serval cat was being kept in their neighbourhood as a family pet.

The cat, normally found in sub-Saharan Africa, can run at speeds of 55mph and is a dangerous predator that cannot normally be bought in Britain as a domestic pet.

If it is legally imported the predatory feline can only be kept by special licence holders.

But James Brown, 36, bought the animal from a Russian company without a licence so was convicted under the Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act and ordered to pay a total of £5,000.

Called Zena by her owners, the animal can leap 12ft and stands at 5ft on her hind legs.

Neighbours complained they had seen the animal sitting at the window and feared she may attack their own pets.

Wandsworth Council was tipped off about the cat when Brown emailed the town hall to ask about getting a licence under the DWA Act.

The serval cat was spotted by neighbours in Balham (Picture: SWNS)

During a phone call from council workers he was told he needed a licence, but Brown changed tack and said he was about to move from his home in Balham to a new place in neighbouring Lambeth.

Council officers contacted their counterparts in Lambeth to alert them — but Lambeth Council never received any licence application from Brown.

Two months later a member of the public phoned the council to complain about seeing a wildcat on a window ledge at Mr Brown’s property in Balham.

When contacted, Brown said he no longer owned the serval and again insisted he was moving to Lambeth, Wandsworth Council said.

Nothing more was heard for six months when another member of the public complained about seeing a wildcat sitting at the window of a property around six miles away in Roehampton, south-west London — Brown’s actual new home.

Animal welfare officers and police visited and questioned Brown, who at that stage insisted the cat was not a serval but another species of less dangerous wildcat.

Authorities have since confirmed the animal was removed and rehoused at a specialist wildlife facility.

Brown told local and national media in 2019 he was actively trying to get a licence and claimed he only agreed to look after the serval after its previous owner struggled to care for Zena.

The serval cat is native to sub-Saharan Africa (Picture: SWNS)

These claims were undermined by Brown’s glowing Facebook endorsements of the Russian company he purchased the cat from, the council said yesterday.

Checks showed a microchip found in her neck had been issued to a company in Russia.

Brown did not turn up for taped interviews with council investigators and did not answer a summons to appear in court. He was charged with keeping a dangerous wild animal without a licence.

At Lavender Hill magistrates’ court he was convicted in his absence and fined at a sentencing hearing last Tuesday as he did not attend.

He was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £4,000 in prosecution costs, ordered to pay a £181 victim surcharge, and banned from owning any wild animals for two years.

A community services and environment spokesman from Wandsworth Council said a predatory wildcat should be roaming the wide-open plains of Africa rather than the streets of south London.

Cllr Steffi Sutters said: ‘Keeping a wild animal like this as a pet is a risky business, but it is possible if certain licence requirements are met.

‘These have been written into law to not only ensure the safety of the public but also the welfare and wellbeing of the animal.

‘However it is not suitable to keep a predatory wildcat that should be roaming the wide-open plains of Africa in a cramped residence in Roehampton.

‘In this case Mr Brown sought to deceive the authorities about what species the animal was and where it was being kept.

‘It was only as a result of complaints from members of the public that we were able to track it down.

‘Happily, as a result of the action we were able to take, this wildcat is now living and thriving in much more natural and appropriate surroundings.’

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