RSPCA Australia says allowing savannah cats into Australia would be a huge mistake and could prove disastrous for native wildlife.
Savannah cats are a hybrid between domestic cats and the wild serval. Servals are an African wild cat, much bigger than a domestic cat, and are capable of hunting much larger animals than the domestic cat.
RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist, Dr Bidda Jones, said because these animals are being bred for five generations from their wild ancestors they are being classed as 'domesticated' for import purposes.
"This means that they are regarded as no different from your ordinary pet moggie. The animal welfare consequences of their importation or the potential impact they may have on Australian wildlife is not being assessed," Dr Jones said.
Savannah cats are just one example of many different wild-domestic hybrids that could be allowed to enter Australia under current regulations. These include hybrids between domestic cats and wild leopard cats, jungle cats and fishing cats.
"Many of these cats are opportunistic hunters that eat a wide range of different animal prey. There is also nothing to stop wild dog or wolf hybrids entering Australia under the same regulations."
The RSPCA believes the creation of wild-domestic hybrids is totally unnecessary, given the range of domesticated breeds already in existence and the significant problems in the care and management of such animals.
"Any animal that is bought on the basis of its looks rather than its behaviour is likely to add to the unwanted animal problem in Australia. A problem that led to the euthanasia of more than 33,000 cats in RSPCA shelters alone last year. Council pounds and other shelters will have euthanased thousands more.
"These hybrids would also be at risk of becoming stray and establishing themselves as an invasive pest animal. Australia already has a major problem in dealing with invasive predators - we cannot afford to make this worse."
RSPCA Australia believes that government import requirements should be drafted to prevent wild-domestic hybrids from entering Australia.