Wild and Exotic Animal Community Engagement

In late 2021 the Royal Oak community was notified about African Caracal Cats that had escaped their enclosure at a private home in a residential area of the city.  Many neighbors expressed concern about how this was allowed in a residential area and what other animals are allowed.  The City Commission is interested in addressing the community’s concerns and would like to hear more from the community regarding potential solutions.

At the November 8th City Commission meeting, a temporary moratorium to prohibit the keeping of non-domestic animals was passed in order to give staff some time to conduct public engagement regarding our animal ordinance.  At this time, the city commission was most interested in addressing this portion  of the ordinance.

The moratorium is set to expire on May 8, 2022.  Staff is working diligently to wrap up public engagement by mid-March and bring forward a proposed ordinance in April.  Depending on the issues identified in the engagement process, this could be delayed in order to address additional issues.   This page will be updated with materials and timing as this project moves forward.

How to participate?

  1. Education – not everyone is an expert in all issues related to animals. We have prepared information related to what city ordinance and state laws allows or requires.
  2. The information you enter in the survey will be available on the webpage and shared with the City Commission. The survey closed at 5pm on March 11th.  Staff is now reviewing feedback from residents.  A copy of the survey results will be posted soon. 
  3. Check back for updates!  This project will be ongoing for the next few months, and staff will update the page with materials and information on the next steps we are taking.

Next Steps

  • March 21, 2022 - the City Commission will receive the survey results with a brief summary on the consent agenda.  This agenda will only share the results of the survey.  Staff plans to bring ordinance changes in April. Stay tuned for additional details and links for the packet. 
  • April 11, 2022 - The City Commission will review an ordinance for Keeping Non-Domestic Animals for a first reading.  The ordinance as it is proposed prohibits some types of animals from the city, while allowing prohibited animals to be registered through until they pass away.  Owners would not be able to register new animals or additional animals that are prohibited.  The ordinance also includes a provision that allows the city to recover costs associated with the care, recovery, housing, capture in the event that a prohibited animal escapes.  No action was taken at the meeting, the City Commission asked staff to revise the proposal and bring it back. 


Royal Oak’s code regarding animals discusses chickens, fowl, poultry, and dogs. Livestock are prohibited under the public nuisance’s section (484-14).   Household cats are generally not addressed outside of a few provisions regarding pet sales and shelters. The moratorium ordinance is the only provision that addresses exotic species or wild animals, but this did not exist prior to November 3rd and is set to expire on May 8th.

State law does prohibit the possession of wolf-dog hybrids, lions, tigers, cheetahs, cougars, leopards, jaguars, panthers, and bears.

Some animals require additional permitting but are able to be kept in residential areas.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources issues permits to hold game animals in captivity and issues licenses if the applicant passes the inspection process.  While the DNR does not encourage keeping these animals as pets, the permit is required for anyone possessing the animals for the purposes of possessing, propagating, selling, transporting or other commercial or personal use of animals defined as game.  Animals that can be covered under this permitting process include: badgers, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, beavers, otters, mink, muskrat, squirrels, skunks, pheasants, ducks, geese, and wild turkey.

There are other permitting processes for keeping deer species, large carnivore breeding, and large-scale dog breeding.  These practices typically are not possible in urban areas due to the amount of space required.

Alligators, serval cats, caracal cats, ocelot, lynx, and many other species are not addressed by state law.  Despite that some of these species are not native to the United States, the state law does not define them as exotic animals.

What do other communities do?  

Generally speaking, communities around Royal Oak seem to deal with wild animals in a few different ways.

  • The law does not address keeping wild or exotic animals.
  • They have a permitting process for animals.
  • They prohibit wild animals or exotic species.

Click on the links below to learn about the ordinances and requirements of our neighboring communities and other Michigan cities similar in size. 

TroyFerndaleMadison HeightsClawson
Oak ParkSouthfield City CodeSt. Clair ShoresBerkley
Battle Creek Macomb County

Frequently Asked Questions

What happened to the African Caracal cats?

The African Caracal cats have been relocated out of the city and the owner is in the process of selling the home.   The enclosures have been removed from the property and the city does not anticipate the homeowner will be bringing the cats back to Royal Oak.

Does this affect the animals at the Detroit Zoo?

No.  Any changes to our code would exclude the Zoo and not impact the types of animals they currently have or could get in the future.

What comes next?

The survey will be available through March 11th at 5:00 PM.  After this staff will begin reviewing the survey results and share them with the City Commission. In April the new ordinance would be presented based on public feedback.  Please note that this may shift depending on the volume of public comment.  


Materials on this website have been made available at the Royal Oak Library and Leo Mahany / Harold Meininger Senior Community Center for public review.  Additionally, any Royal Oak residents or business owners may request a printed copy be mailed to them. This will include the survey, which can be returned to staff.   Please email SusanB@romi.gov or call 248-246-3204 with your name and address. Unfortunately, the city is not able to provide this service to non-Royal Oak residents and business owners.