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Nov 10, 3:21 PM EST

Big cheetah-like feline captured in Pennsylvania


READING, Pa. (AP) -- Police captured a big African cat, resembling a cheetah, running loose through the streets of a Pennsylvania city.

Reports about the spotted feline started coming in on Nov. 3 in Reading, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. When officers tracked it down, they initially thought they'd found a cheetah.

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County says they got a call from the city's police department about the big cat on Saturday.

When staff responded, they found a cat called an African serval. The cats are illegal to own in Pennsylvania without a license, and the state's game commission says no one in Berks County has such a license.

The 1- to 2-year-old female was declawed and very friendly, leading animal workers to presume it had been a pet, raised in a home since it was a kitten.

The animal could be worth $20,000 to $30,000 on the black market, said Tom Hubric, the animal rescue league's interim executive director.

He speculated the owner may have wanted to breed the serval with a domesticated cat to create what's called a Savannah cat. Those are legal to own, he says.

The cat was transported Thursday to a big cat rescue facility that can give it the special diet and extensive exercise it needs.

"She's just a magnificent animal and she's captivated everyone who has seen her," Hubric said.

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