Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report

May 10, 1999





By: Matthew Ranelli, Associate Attorney

You asked for background information on the prohibition against possessing Bengal cats in Connecticut and whether the prohibition covers importing such cats from other states or only other nations.

Connecticut law prohibits the possession of potentially dangerous animals including (1) the felidae, including the lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi cat, puma, lynx, and bobcat; (2) the canidae (e.g. wolf); and (3) the ursidae (e.g. bear). DEP may seize and dispose of potentially dangerous animals (CGS 26-40a). The law exempts municipal parks, zoos, nature centers, museums, and persons possessing such animals on or before May 23, 1983.

Historically, DEP has interpreted this prohibition to cover all felidae including Bengal cats. A Seymour resident who owned a Bengal cat and two other varieties challenged this interpretation arguing that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and its list of felidea was exclusive. In 1995, the courts agreed with DEP's interpretation ruling that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Bengal cats. Essentially, the court concluded that the legislature used the tern “including” expansively to include all felidae in the ban not only the ones listed (see State v. DeFracesco, 235 C. 426 (1995)).

Subsequently the legislature passed PA 96-243 which (1) explicitly banned the importation of Bengal cats effective June 6, 1996 and (2) exempting certain existing Bengal cat owners from the prohibition against possessing the cats. To be exempt cat owners must (1) register their cats with the Department of Agriculture by October 1, 1996 and (2) certify, through an internationally recognized breeding association, that their cats are without wild parentage for at least four generations. The importation ban is not limited to importation from foreign countries.