An 11-month-old female cougar that (for now) weighs roughly 80-pounds was taken out of a New York City apartment last week after its owners gave it up to the authorities.
The animal, whose nickname is Sasha, was surrendered on Thursday according to a release from Kelly Donithan, the director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States. In addition to the Humane Society, other groups attending the transfer of said animal included the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the NYPD.
Over the weekend Sasha received veterinary care at the Bronx Zoo. On Monday she was transported to an accredited animal sanctuary in Arkansas called the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. There she will receive lifetime care.
While this type of incident is not a common one, New York state previously dealt with similar headline-grabbing bullshit in 2003 (when a 400-pound adult tiger was taken from an apartment in Harlem) and 2004 (when a man’s pet leopard attacked his son).
Donithan said that in this most recent instance the cougar was “relatively lucky” because the person(s) caring for her, Bronx residents, came to the realization that raising a big cat in a domestic environment was probably not the best idea.
“I’ve never seen a cougar in the wild, but I’ve seen them on leashes, smashed into cages, and crying for their mothers when breeders rip them away,” Donithan said via statement. “I’ve also seen the heartbreak of owners, like in this case, after being sold not just a wild animal, but a false dream that they could make a good ‘pet.’ This cougar is relatively lucky that her owners recognized a wild cat is not fit to live in an apartment or any domestic environment. The owner’s tears and nervous chirps from the cougar as we drove her away painfully drives home the many victims of this horrendous trade and myth that wild animals belong anywhere but the wild.”
On a similar note, NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said that “cougars may look cute and cuddly when young,” but that they “can grow up to be unpredictable and dangerous.”
Also there’s the issue of legality. On that note, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, this case is currently under investigation.