The furore involving a Savannah cat named Berton this week has again highlighted the long-standing issue of the importation of exotic animals into Cyprus and the possible consequences, in this case an attack on a child and now the death of the unfortunate animal.

The Animal Party and the Greens organised a joint demonstration for Thursday morning calling for the prosecution of the veterinary services. A necropsy will also be performed.

Berton had been brought in with pedigree papers some time last year but was removed from his owner after he scratched a child in an apartment building last May. Savannah cats, which are a cross between an African serval and a domestic cat, are allowed into the EU under certain conditions.

After the incident, the cat was taken to Limassol zoo where its condition deteriorated recently so it was moved to Paphos zoo which had better facilities and care. It was later reported that it underwent surgery for a bowel obstruction but it was ultimately found dead on Monday.

A week before the cat’s death, just after the story of Berton’s decline at Limassol zoo hit social media, the veterinary services issued a lengthy statement absolving itself of any blame. It also disputes that the cat was a Savannah hybrid, saying it was in fact an African serval, a wild cat, that was misrepresented on the required documentation.

For this reason, it said, the cat could not be sent to a more suitable place abroad following the incident with the child and had to be accommodated at Limassol zoo, at least temporarily. Once they established it was a serval, they said, the environment department was informed for further action as the serval species is protected under international trade conventions. They did everything right, they said. However, since they ultimately were somehow able to establish that the cat was a serval and not a Savannah, why was this not done when the animal was first imported? Isn’t that their job? Was there no quarantine or tests carried out?

Or perhaps they were wrong, and the cat is really a Savannah.

However, there are also concerns in some countries about such hybrids. Even though the Savannah temperament leans more towards that of a domestic cat, there are no guarantees. After all, this particular cat, whatever breed it is, did attack a child. The UK earlier this year reported that concern was growing over the number of Savannahs being imported into the country because it was fashionable and the cats apparently make for great Instagram posts. The UK is now considering banning them.

Although the bottom line, when it comes to exotic animals, stems from people’s desire to own and show off unusual pets, it is incumbent on the authorities to be as thorough as possible before allowing exotic animals, even hybrids into the country.

Regardless of the Animal Party’s demand for the prosecution of the veterinary services, there should at least be an investigation into what exactly happened here.