GLADSTONE, Ore. — A 16-year-old Siberian lynx will get to stay with the only owner she's ever known while a state senator tries to add flexibility to an Oregon law that bans exotic pets.
Patrick Clark, 43, has owned the lynx named Sosha since shortly after its birth. When he and his wife moved to the Portland suburb of Gladstone a year ago, a neighbor complained about the cat, and the couple learned that a city ordinance and a 2009 state law prohibited them from keeping a lynx as a pet.
The city had given Clark until today to relinquish Sosha, but the Gladstone council voted late Tuesday to let him keep the lynx until 90 days after the upcoming legislative session, which starts in February and lasts five weeks. That will give Sen. Alan Olsen a chance to pass legislation loosening the state law against exotic pets and give Gladstone more leeway with its own ordinance.
Olsen, a Republican whose district includes Gladstone, described the exotic pet law as "extremely rigid." He has yet to draft a specific bill, but wants the law amended to let the state Department of Agriculture occasionally grant exceptions.
"Here's a cat that probably isn't any bigger, or smaller, than a fat house cat," Olsen said of the 35-pound lynx. "It's been de-clawed, it's well taken care of, it's got a wonderful facility to live in, it's got plenty of room to run around and it loves its owner."
The law banning exotic pets grandfathered in owners who got a permit from the state Department of Agriculture before 2011. The Clarks said they never got a permit because they did not know about the law until they moved to Gladstone from nearby Milwaukie.
As of Wednesday, there were 38 active permits in Oregon covering 56 exotic pets, according to state figures. Among the permitted pets are alligators, lemurs, spider monkeys and a chimpanzee. The state has seven permitted lynxes — three in Canby, two in Oregon City, one in Albany and one in Coos Bay.
Clark's wife, Molly, said she said got together with Patrick when Sosha was 3 years old. She said her Marine veteran husband has post-traumatic stress disorder and the lynx provides comfort: "Every time he's been upset, he actually does go in that cage and he calms down."
Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition asking the state to let the lynx stay with Clark. If Clark loses, cat sanctuaries have offered to provide a home for Sosha.
"We appreciate the offers, but we really want her to stay with us," Molly Clark said.