80-pound cougar pulled from New York City apartment : NPR


80-pound cougar pulled from New York City apartment : NPR ap21242694896449 b1980ecc5f4a39656c9e2e2611f9b497c5691c2c s1100 c50

This photo provided by the Bronx Zoo in New York shows an 11-month-old cougar who was taken from an apartment in the Bronx borough of New York.

Bronx Zoo via AP


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Bronx Zoo via AP

80-pound cougar pulled from New York City apartment : NPR ap21242694896449 b1980ecc5f4a39656c9e2e2611f9b497c5691c2c s1200

This photo provided by the Bronx Zoo in New York shows an 11-month-old cougar who was taken from an apartment in the Bronx borough of New York.

Bronx Zoo via AP

NEW YORK (AP) — An 80-pound cougar has been removed from a New York City apartment where it was illegally kept as a pet, animal welfare officials said Monday.

The owner of the 11-month-old female cougar turned the animal over Thursday, Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release.

The cougar, nicknamed Sasha, spent the weekend at the Bronx Zoo receiving veterinary care and is now headed to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, officials said.

The Humane Society coordinated with zoo officials, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Police Department to remove the big cat.

“I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild, but I’ve seen them leashed, put in cages and crying for their mothers when they are taken away by breeders,” said Donithan of the Humane Society. “I’ve also seen the anguish of owners, as in this case, after they were sold not just a wild animal, but a false dream that they could make a good ‘pet’.”

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Donithan said this cougar was relatively lucky because her owners, who live in the Bronx, recognized that a feral cat is not fit for apartment living and gave her up.

“The tears of the owner and the nervous screeching of the cougar as we painfully drove her away drives home the many victims of this horrendous trade and the myth that wild animals belong anywhere but in the wild,” Donithan said.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said that while cougars “may look cute and cuddly when they are young, these animals can grow to become unpredictable and dangerous.”

Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said the exotic pet trade does not contribute to the conservation of endangered species.

“These animals often end up in very bad situations, kept by private individuals who don’t have the resources, facilities, knowledge or experience to provide for the animals’ most basic needs,” Breheny said. “In addition to these animal welfare concerns, private ownership of big cats poses a real danger to the safety of the owner, the owner’s family and the community at large.”

New York has seen other notable cases involving dangerous animals in private residences, including Ming, a 400-pound tiger who was taken from a Harlem apartment in 2003.

Ming’s owner, Antoine Yates, was arrested and sentenced to five months in prison for reckless endangerment. Ming died in 2019 at Noah’s Lost Ark Exotic Animal Rescue Center in Ohio.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the cougar case “is currently under investigation and no further information is available at this time.”

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