CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The search is still on for the missing African Serval cat named "Cheeto" which disappeared on James Island last weekend. While some consider the cat exotic, it's actually legal in the state and so are many animals you might not expected.
There is a law that covers keeping animals. The Department of Natural Resources said the law doesn't outlaw many animals partly because when it was written, most people didn't think people would want to own them as pets.
Without a special permit, you can't own wild hogs, bison, coyotes, bears, wild turkeys, foxes, raccoon, and a few others without a special permit. Those are partly for safety reasons and also to stop diseases from spreading. DNR said the special permits are very difficult to get and are almost always only given for educational purposes like a wildlife center.
South Carolina's laws don't mention many more foreign animals like gorillas, tigers or servals. Federal laws make many of those animals illegal or very difficult to import, but once they're in the state, DNR said they're allowed to stay unless someone can prove where they came from, which is often very difficult.
Charleston County has its own ordinance which mostly copies the state one, but does require a permit for a family of large cats known as Felidae, which includes cheetas and servals, which DNR said are relatively common in the pet trade.
DNR said Florida is an example of a state with one of the most comprehensive laws regarding exotic animals. It splits animals into different classes and requires different permits. For example, an elephant is in Class 1, bobcats and servals are Class 2.