OGDEN — The cat Karen Goeckect brought to a veterinarian to be spayed and declawed was actually a lynx — a threatened species that wildlife officials say is illegal to own in Utah.
Veterinarian Greg Johnston said 16-week-old Sasa was the size of a large house cat but had black-tufted ears, thick, lanky legs and oversize feet tipped with half-inch claws.
"After working for Fish and Game and spending 40 years as a veterinarian, I knew what I was dealing with," Johnston said.
Johnston said Goeckect, who listed a Garden City address, told a receptionist Sasa was a domestic cat when she left the animal Monday to be spayed and declawed at the Johnston Animal Hospital.
Goeckect said Tuesday that she bought Sasa for $2,000 from a breeder in Minnesota. She said she planned to raise the animal at her home in Idaho, where lynx can be kept as pets if owners have a health certificate and an Idaho import license.
In Utah, lynx can be kept only by zoos or pelt farms, Division of Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Kip King said.
Sasa is good-natured, people-friendly and has never seriously bitten or scratched anyone, Goeckect said.
"She's not afraid of humans," Goeckect said. "She'll come right up and sit on your lap. If she was declawed, she'd be no different from a house cat."
Johnston said Goeckect may be able to control Sasa now, but when she reaches her full size of 30 to 40 pounds she will pose a danger to people and pets.
"This cat would have always been in charge," Johnston said. "The family would have been pretty much hostages to it."
The Division of Wildlife Resources allowed Goeckect to take Sasa home temporarily but said the lynx eventually will have to be placed in a zoo or a rescue facility.
Sasa bit and scratched Johnston, so she will have to be quarantined at Goeckect's house for at least 10 days to check for rabies.
King said Goeckect could be subject to wildlife charges.
Information from: Standard-Examiner, www.standard.net