An 80-pound cougar that was removed from a New York City home last week is headed to an animal sanctuary after a short stay at the Bronx Zoo.
“Wildlife like cougars are not pets,” Basil Seggos, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement Monday. “While cougars may look cute and cuddly when young, these animals can grow up to be unpredictable and dangerous."
The cougar, an 11-month-old female named Sasha, was removed from the home Thursday night with help from the New York City Police Department, according to the statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Sasha was then taken to the Bronx Zoo where she was checked out by veterinarians before heading to Turpentine Creek, an animal sanctuary in Arkansas where she will receive lifelong care.
Animal welfare officials said the big cat was surrendered by her owner.
"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. 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,’" said Kelly Donithan, the director of animal disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States, who was on the scene.
"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," Donithan said.
It's unclear what neighborhood or what kind of housing situation the cougar was living in. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does not comment on active investigations, and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the case is under investigation and no further information would be released.
Shea thanked officers from the emergency service unit and the Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad, who assisted police.
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, urged Congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would "strengthen existing laws to prohibit the breeding and possession of big cat species such as lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars," the Wildlife Conservation Society statement said.
New York's regulations on ownership of wild animals was made more stringent last year.