Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 | 3:29 p.m.
Two house cats were at the center of a heated debate at a town advisory board meeting Tuesday night, but these cats are unlike any others you're likely to find in Las Vegas.
A group of neighbors turned out to oppose an exotic animal permit that would have allowed record producer Jamal Rashid to keep two serval cats and a capuchin monkey at his three-acre estate near Russell Road and Mountain Vista Street.
The servals are native to Africa and can grow to weigh up to 40 pounds. They have a head like a house cat and a body with spots similar to those of a cheetah. Rashid has had a permit to house the animals, but a recent escape by one of the servals – the second in the last three years – brought the item back before the Paradise Town Advisory Board.
Neighbors described the area as "very quiet and very peaceful," but they're worried about the safety of people and animals if the cats escape.
"Being a retired senior citizen, I can't run that fast or jump 10 feet like these animals," neighbor Myrna Cameron said. "It's just not a place for that type of animal."
Chris Marcoux went to the meeting to speak on behalf of about 30 of his neighbors. He said many are animal owners and lovers, but they're worried that the repeated escapes of the servals could cause problems.
Two of Rashid's employees represented him at the meeting and argued that the servals are domesticated and peaceful – in essence, oversized house cats.
The animals are declawed, don't hunt and are confined to the house on the property. A retaining wall runs the length of the property and the front gates are continuously monitored by security.
"They're basically domesticated cats," Ernest Spencer said. "They purr, they eat chicken. They're always in the house."
Spencer's arguments fell short though, as the advisory board denied the application. Rashid's application will still be heard by the planning commission and Clark County commissioners, who will take the advisory board's recommendation into consideration. If Rashid's application is denied, he would have six months to remove the animals from his property.
Board member John Williams said he's not opposed to people owning exotic pets, as long as they can take care of them.
"What concerns me is he can't control these animals," Williams said. "He obviously can't take care of them or contain them like he's required to do."